Voting booths set up inside a polling station in Christmas, Florida on November 8, 2016.
CNN  — 

With the general election nearly 100 days away, Maryland still doesn’t have enough judges to staff all of its polling locations for November 3, according to Maryland Association of Election Officials President David Garreis.

In order to staff early voting and Election Day polling locations, the state needs 39,482 election judges, Garreis told the Maryland State Board of Elections this week during a remote meeting. Right now, they are 13,970 judges short, which is a 35% vacancy rate, Garreis said.

Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, announced earlier this month that the state will conduct the general election according to “existing state law” with “enhanced voting options.” Hogan directed the Maryland State Board of Elections, the five-person bipartisan group appointed by the governor to run statewide elections, to open every early voting center before Election Day and every polling location on Election Day. He also directed the state board to send out applications for mail-in ballots to every “eligible Maryland voter.”

“The fundamental responsibility of the State Board of Elections is to conduct free and fair elections in a manner that facilitates maximum voter participation,” Hogan said in a statement. “This approach — which is already fully authorized by existing state law — will maximize participation in the November election by offering voters more options while minimizing confusion and risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Garreis said that he and other local board electors are concerned about opening every polling location on Election Day because of the election judge deficit they are already facing.

Election judges, people who volunteer to staff and operate polling locations during early voting hours and on Election Day, tend to be older individuals who are retired, according to Garreis. Older people are at a higher risk of getting sick from coronavirus. Garreis said many people have backed out of serving as election judges already.

“They are either declining outright or they agree, and, now that the coronavirus seems to be picking up steam again, they are dropping out, and we don’t have people that we can recruit to cover this vacancy,” Garreis told CNN. “This is a logistical and public health issue for conducting the election.”

Hogan said he would “encourage state employees to help supplement election staffing needs,” but Garreis is concerned that asking 13,000 state employees to work an election and put themselves at risk is “a big gap to close.”

Garreis and other local election board officials offered other solutions to the state board, like consolidating polling locations and instead having voting centers in each county, where fewer election judges are required to staff the location but larger groups of people can vote at once. He also encouraged the board to support voting by mail.

“It’s like you are pushing a boulder up a hill. You know logistically and from our experience, like I’ve been running elections for 15 years, and you know this, what we’ve been asked to do, it’s not going to happen the way that they want it to happen because of coronavirus and everything that’s going on,” Garreis said.

In the meantime, Garreis said he is continuing to recruit eligible election judges. In addition to serving as president of the nonpartisan Maryland Association of Election Officials, Garreis is also the deputy director of the Anne Arundel County Board of Elections.

“We are going to try and fill the vacant positions so we can open all of the polling places, and, if we can’t, then we will be left to consolidate because that’s our only option,” Garreis said.