The right to vote for every eligible American has been a basic League principle since its origin. The League has consistently supported legislation that facilitates voting for all citizens and opposed legislation that would curtail that basic right.

While the legislature, working with the League and other advocates, has enacted many laws that make Maryland a leader in voting rights such as automatic voter registration, same day voter registration, early voting centers, a permanent mail-in ballot list, pre-paid postage for mail-in ballots, automatic restoration of voting rights for felons upon release from incarceration, facilitation of voting for incarcerated individuals convicted of a misdemeanor or awaiting trial, there are many more reforms to be achieved.

For many years, LWVMD, based on a position adopted in 1985, has supported bills to fill vacancies in the General Election by Special Elections rather than by nominations by Party Central Committees. As of 2023 one in five Maryland state legislators (17% of Delegates and 30% of Senators) were initially appointed by the Democratic or Republican Central Committee. Due to administrative appointments that happen following a gubernatorial election year, that statistic has likely increased. Our position has always been that the voters should elect their representatives, not party insiders. We will support such legislation (again) in 2024.

In 2018, the League adopted a position to support open primary elections.  While no legislation for open primaries has been proposed since then, in 2018, 2019 and 2023, we have supported bills that would allow unaffiliated voters to declare a party affiliation during early voting and on election day when same day registration is allowed.  We will continue to support such legislation this session because it will allow more than 800,000 unaffiliated voters– over 20% of the State’s total the opportunity to vote in primary elections. Many do not understand our closed primary system until they arrive at the polls and for new citizens who register at their naturalization ceremonies, they may not have prepared to register with a party that day.

The League supports measures that ensure the accurate counting of all votes and that protect the integrity of our elections. Risk-limiting audits can be a useful tool in this effort and are well worth funding. Risk-limiting audits are more efficient than the current mandate to audit a fixed percentage of ballots. We will support risk-limiting audits in 2024 as we have done for the last 3 years.

The League supports transparency in campaign finance laws.  Who is donating to candidates and how they are spending these funds is essential for voters to know more about those running for office in order to make an informed choice. Over the years we have supported additional transparency for contributions by businesses corporations and individuals.  Again, this year, we will support a bill that requires the same reporting requirements for candidate draft committees and candidate exploratory committees.  Previously, the collection and distribution of funds operated in the dark.

When the Supreme Court removed the pre-clearance provision form the 1965 Voting rights Act, it removed an important safe-guard for making sure that election practices would not impair the rights of voters. A Maryland Voting Rights Act will be submitted this session that builds on models recently enacted in VA, NY, WA, CT and other states. It aims to protect voters regardless of any further changes in voting rights that are passed by the Supreme Court. This would include measures to address discriminatory redistricting, voting practices in municipalities that impair the ability to vote, and requirements for multi-lingual voting materials beyond what is currently required.

And of course, we will continue to oppose bills that make voters jump though hoops to vote such as having a witness sign the absentee ballot envelope in addition to the currently required oath of the voter and additional voter ID requirements for voting in person.