Statement Regarding LWVMD & Candidate Forums

The League of Women Voters of Maryland, in partnership with The Reginald F. Lewis Museum, is pleased to put on a candidate forum this coming Monday, October 3rd, at 6:00 PM, to which all candidates have been invited. 

On September 7th, our partners sent an invitation via email to Delegate Dan Cox, inviting him to participate in the candidate forum. On September 14th, an email was received from a staffer declining the invitation citing a prior commitment and stating if another opportunity arises, please make Delegate Cox aware. 

Delegate Cox, as well as all other candidates running for Governor, have been invited to another Gubernatorial forum hosted by LWVMD and our partners on October 13th. While all candidates have been invited, and Delegate Cox has accepted the invitation, not all candidates will be present Wes Moore has declined. 

The League was very troubled by various Facebook posts that claimed we did not invite Cox to participate. Deliberate attempts to spread misinformation and untruths are disturbing to an organization whose mission is to Empower Voters and Defend Democracy. 

If candidates who have previously declined our invitations would like to participate, please reach out to us; we are more than willing to accommodate per the League’s mission. 

For more information, please visit our website at www.lwvmd.org or email us at [email protected]

Share

LWVMD Provides Voter Education Tool VOTE411

LWV of Maryland Provides Voter Education Tool VOTE411

Annapolis– Ahead of the 2022 Midterm elections, the League of Women Voters of Maryland offers the nonpartisan election resource VOTE411.org. This “one-stop shop” for election information provides Maryland voters with simple, accessible tools to help them navigate the voting process. VOTE411 provides personalized candidate information, voter registration details, polling place locations, and other helpful election information for all voters nationwide. LWVMD offers voters a chance to read responses from every candidate who will be on the ballot.

“From local ballot initiatives to important state races, it is crucial voters in Maryland make their voices heard this election year,” said Nancy Soreng, President. “VOTE411 is the nation’s premiere online election resource that provides voters with the resources they need to make an informed vote this fall. The League of Women Voters of Maryland has published our voter guide on VOTE411 as a resource for all Maryland voters.” Vote411.org goes live on June 4th. In many communities in Maryland LWVMD’s Voter’s Guides in your local newspaper, library, or you will soon be able to go to our website www.lwvmd.org/voting.

In Montgomery County Vote411 and print Voter’s Guides are available in both English and Spanish, VOTE411 helps millions each year — many of them young people and first-time voters — learn more about what’s on their ballot, where candidates stand on the issues, how to find their polling place, and more.

“The League of Women Voters of Maryland is pleased to provide this important, nonpartisan resource to Maryland voters,” said Nikki Tyree, Executive Director. “We encourage voters to visit VOTE411.org to make a voting plan so they are prepared to cast their vote confidently on Election Day!”

Maryland’s Primary Election day will be held July 19th. Voters must be registered by June 28th. To request a Mail-in Ballot you must request one through the State Board of Elections or your Local Board by July 12th. These must be returned to a drop box or postmarked by July 19th to be counted. Early voting begins July 7th and will run through July 14th.

###

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan political organization that encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.

Share

Maryland Governor Vetos Election Bills

Maryland Governor Vetoes Elections Bills

In one of his last actions on legislation, Hogan vetoes bills to make what he described as “positive changes to State election law”  

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has vetoed legislation that would have 

  • allowed elections clerks to pre-process mail-in ballots, so they can count the votes and announce results more quickly; 
  • created a statutory process allowing voters the opportunity to “cure” mistakes on their mail-in ballots, rather than having the ballots rejected; and
  • provided for precinct-level reporting of early voting, mail-in voting and provisional ballots.

His rejections of HB 862 and SB 163 were announced late Friday afternoon, as part of a package of 18 vetoes. 

Gov. Hogan’s veto message praised the legislation as offering “positive changes to State election law” – but he still vetoed the bills. Gov. Hogan attributed his vetoes to the fact that the legislation did not also address ballot collection or signature verification. 

The vetoes do not appear to have any strategic value; they do not create any political leverage with the Legislature. Gov. Hogan is term-limited, and will not be in office when the state Legislature begins its new session next year.

Thirty-eight states and the Virgin Islands explicitly authorize election officials to begin processing mail-in ballots prior to the election; in two other states and Puerto Rico, there is no statutory restriction on when processing may start. Nine states and Washington, D.C. permit election officials to begin processing mail-in ballots on Election Day, but prior to the closing of the polls. Maryland is the only state that does not permit the processing of mail-in ballots until after the polls close on Election Day.

At least 24 states have statutory provisions allowing voters to “cure” mistakes in their mail-in ballots. The process allows election officials to reach out to any voter that has a remediable issue with their submitted ballot, such as a missing oath or signature, and allows voters to fix the mistake so the ballot can be counted. In Maryland’s June 2020 primary, almost 35,000 mail-in ballots were rejected; in the 2020 presidential election, another 0.24% of mail-in ballots were rejected

The State Board of Elections can still use its rule-making authority to create precinct-level reporting and a statewide “cure” process. Local boards of elections can also create “cure” processes using their regulatory authority.   

“After two legislative sessions working on these changes, Common Cause Maryland is extremely disappointed in Governor Hogan’s decision to veto earlier election results and a statutory process for ‘curing’ ballots,” said Common Cause Maryland policy & engagement manager  Morgan Drayton. “Maryland will have to wait for a new administration and a new Legislature before ballots can be pre-processed, but we urge Maryland’s state and local elections boards to use their rule-making authority now to create a ‘cure’ process and a system for precinct-level reporting.” 

“A ‘cure’ process is particularly needed for voters in vulnerable communities who must vote by mail, like voters with disabilities, students, and the elderly. It also allows voters juggling family and job responsibilities to vote by mail with confidence that their ballots will be counted, and not rejected because of fixable mistakes,” Drayton added.

“It’s confusing that the governor vetoed an elections’ process bill, despite saying in a public letter that he supports its content,” said Emily Scarr, director of Maryland PIRG. “In the spirit of strengthening our democracy, Maryland PIRG is disappointed that Governor Hogan has chosen to throw out the baby with the bathwater by ignoring the common ground he has with so many legislators and constituents from both parties.”

“While this might play well for the Governor nationally, he’s sacrificed Maryland knowing this bill would have eased time constraints and workload for our Election Officials,” said Nikki Tyree, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Maryland. “Even Governor Hogan could not ignore the positive change SB 163 would bring and instead chose to roll back changes that resulted in the largest voter turnout.”  

Ballot collection has become the topic of politically polarized debate nationwide. Maryland state law currently allows a “designated agent” to pick up and return another person’s mail-in ballot. The agent must be at least 18 years old; not a candidate on that ballot; and designated in a written statement signed by the voter under penalty of perjury. The agent must also execute an affidavit under penalty of perjury that the ballot was returned to the local board by the agent. Hogan’s Friday veto message did not describe what changes he wants made to that statute.

Signature verification of mail-in ballots has also been a politically-polarized topic, particularly after demands that Georgia conduct a signature audit in Cobb County. Racial differences in ballot rejection rates have been found by multiple studies. Most recently, auditors in Washington State found that, in 2020, signatures of Black voters were rejected at four times the rate of white voters. Native American, Hispanic, and Asian and Pacific Islander voters also had higher rejection rates than white voters.

Maryland state law requires voters using mail-in ballots to swear an oath, under penalties of perjury, that they are qualified to vote and personally voted their ballot. Only one ballot is counted per voter. Other states that do not require verification of signatures include Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Wyoming. 

——

Everyone Votes Maryland is a nonpartisan coalition of national, state, and grassroots organizations dedicated to ensuring that all eligible Marylanders can have their voices heard on Election Day.

Read this release online here.

Share

Voting Rights and Reproductive Justice Rally

President of LWVMD Nancy Soreng holding We will Not be Silenced Sign

On June 25th, I joined Black Women Leaders and Allies, an arm of the National Coalition for Black Civic Participation (NCBCP), for their Voting Rights and Reproductive Justice call to action. Notably, this event took place the day following the tragic mass shooting of 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

Virginia Case, CEO of the League of Women Voters of the United States was one of the featured speakers.  Her remarks can be seen here.

Many of the powerful speakers questioned why so many lawmakers claim that their highest priority seems to be protecting the unborn, but they have failed to act on issues of critical importance to the children of today: addressing gun violence, systemic racism, access to health care services, a living wage for parents and the ability of families to afford quality child care.

These themes will be repeated at the June 18th Moral March on Washington and to the Polls in Washington DC sponsored by the Poor People's Campaign and dozens of mobilizing partners including LWVUS.  Mark your calendars and plan to join me there.

Nancy Soreng, President

LWVMD

Share

When Will Enough be Enough?

This morning our hearts are heavy. Yesterday morning, tragically, 19 children attending their last week of elementary school were gunned down along with two of their teachers in Uvalde, Texas. While we do not live in Texas and may be able to shake our heads and say at least our state has somewhat better laws the question remains:

When will enough be enough?

This past legislative session LWVMD proudly and loudly testified and worked on bills that would help protect all Marylanders against gun crimes. Some of these bills, such as the Ghost Gun bill were successful in passing, others such as how guns had to be stored with children in the home to aid in preventing youth suicide were not. We celebrate the wins and look forward to returning to the fight on the losses.

Often in this work, we are reminded of an anecdote from when one of our founders Carrie Catt Chapman was working to pass the 19th amendment - if women get the right to vote they will do such things like legally protect women and ensure child welfare.

Today, LWVMD stands recommitted more than ever to ensuring that this line, once used as a fear mongering tactic, becomes something we pickup and carry with honor - that when you tell people you’re a member of the League of Women Voters of Maryland they’ll know exactly what you stand for.

Most importantly, we want to thank you, our members. Without your tireless dedication and relentless resolve, our fight to ensure that all voices are heard, even those who can’t quite reach the ballot screen yet, would simply not be possible. The strength that comes in knowing we stand together is our greatest asset. Whether you are standing in front of the State Legislature fighting for bills to be heard or standing in the sweltering heat or blistering cold for hours ensuring that all votes are counted you are the backbone of not just the League, but of our democracy.

Empowering (future) Voters, Defending Democracy.

In League,

Nancy Soreng, President LWVMD
Nikki Tyree, Executive Director LWVMD

 

Share

Maryland Congressional Maps for November 2022 Election

For Immediate Release
April 4, 2022m ANNAPOLIS, MD — We are relieved that Maryland’s Congressional map for the 2022 November election is one step closer to being finalized. The Anne Arundel Circuit Court is expected to rule soon on the new Congressional map signed by Governor Hogan today. Judge Battaglia will be considering only one additional change, not splitting Baltimore City into two districts, before making her final ruling.


The latest Congressional map scores significantly better than the original Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission’s map enacted in 2021. Both FiveThirtyEight https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/redistricting-2022-maps/maryland/ and PlanScore https://planscore.campaignlegal.org/maryland/#!2020-plan-ushouse-eg, a project of the non-profit, non-partisan Campaign Legal Center, have calculated that the latest Congressional map is significantly less biased toward the Democrats.

Of course, the boards of elections still can’t finalize the ballot, since we are waiting for a ruling about the constitutionality of the Legislative map by the Maryland Court of Appeals.

As Nancy Soreng, President of the League of Women Voters of Maryland said: “All of this chaos, last-minute intense work by the legislature, their staff, the state and local boards of elections and the courts could be avoided next time by enacting an independent redistricting commission with transparently chosen multi- partisan members and adequate funding. We hope that the elected representatives of Maryland will work with us over the next ten years to achieve a smooth census and redistricting process.”

Share

Anti-Gerrymandering Groups Call on Legislature to Hold Fair and Transparent Mapping Process after Congressional Map Struck Down by Court

Press Contacts:

Joanne Antoine, [email protected], 443-906-0442

Nikki Tyree, [email protected], 443-534-8773

Anti-Gerrymandering Groups Call on Legislature to Hold Fair and Transparent Mapping Process after Congressional Map Struck Down by Court

Today, the Anne Arundel Circuit Court of Maryland struck down the Maryland Congressional map on the grounds that the map violated the constitutional rights of Republicans.  Judge Lynne A. Battaliga entered a declaratory judgment in favor of the plaintiffs finding the 2021 Congressional Map unconstitutional, permanently enjoining the use of the plan in any future elections, and providing the Maryland General Assembly with an opportunity to develop a new Congressional Map. 

Statement from Joanne Antoine, Executive Director of Common Cause Maryland

Today’s decision is a victory for Maryland voters who now have an opportunity to vote in fairer, more representative districts.  We know that our democracy works best when everyone, regardless of race or political party, has an equal opportunity to make their voice heard.

The Maryland General Assembly will now undertake the task of redrawing our congressional map to comply with the court’s order.  We strongly encourage the General Assembly to conduct this re-draw process transparently and provide meaningful opportunities for public input into the new map. 

We also continue to call on the General Assembly to swiftly pass pending legislation that will ensure local Board of Elections are prepared to handle the influx of mail-in ballots and to make adequate funding available for robust public outreach so voters know when and where to vote in the primary election.

The congressional map belongs to the voters of Maryland, not the politicians. It’s time for the General Assembly to do right by the voters and lead a fair, open, and transparent process that results in fair maps.

Statement from Nikki Tyree, Executive Director of League of Women Voters of Maryland

This is an historic moment, the first time that a Maryland Congressional district map has been found to be in violation of the Maryland Constitution. The people of Maryland deserve to have an open, transparent, and nonpartisan redistricting process that ensures the reigning party cannot play politics with their lives and their votes. We urge the General Assembly to quickly correct the issues and produce a new, fairer map by the court's March 30 deadline.

Share

Firearms Control 2022 Issue Paper

Firearms Control in Maryland

According to Everytown for Gun Safety, “Every day, more than 110 Americans are killed with guns and more than 200 are shot and wounded”. Daily news of shootings dominates the headlines and our communities have become numb to the violence. For numerous students, businesses, and workplaces active shooter drills have become something that Americans have grown accustomed to. Unfortunately, this has become the stark reality of living in the United States. 

In 2018 in order to address the continuing violence the League of Women Voters US sent a letter to the United States Congress urging them to “adopt legislation that will close the gun show loophole, increase penalties for straw purchases of guns, ban assault weapons, place limits on high capacity ammunition magazine size, and fund research and reporting on gun violence in America”. The League holds a strong position in support of firearms control. The LWVUS position is: Protect the health and safety of citizens through limiting the accessibility and regulating the ownership of handguns and semi-automatic assault weapons. In 1991, LWVMD reached concurrence and adopted a state position. Still in 2022 the League is continuing to work to end the gun violence epidemic. 

This year the League will be tracking several firearms control bills that have been introduced. The bills are as follows: 

SB338- Handgun Permit-Preliminary Approval. The League will be opposing this bill which would allow for a person to apply for preliminary approval for a handgun permit without first completing a firearms training course. Within 120 days after receipt of preliminary approval an applicant must submit proof of completion of a firearms training course. If no proof of completion of a firearms training course is received the bill states “the secretary shall revoke the preliminary approval and deny the application”. The League supports licensing procedures for gun ownership by private citizens to include a waiting period for background checks, personal identity verification, gun safety education, and annual license renewal. We also support a requirement of a proficiency test as part of the procedure for obtaining a hunting license. The purpose of the test is to assure gun owners can safely operate their firearm.  

HB425/SB387-Public Safety-Untraceable Firearms. The League will be supporting this bill which would expand the definition of what constitutes a “firearm”. It would expand the definition to the following as a “firearm” to include a “certain unfinished frame or receiver; prohibiting a person from purchasing, receiving, selling, offering to sell, or transferring an unfinished frame or receiver, or possessing a firearm on or after a certain date”. A “ghost gun” according to Everytown for Gun Safety is “a do-it-yourself, homemade gun made from easy-to-get building blocks that can be purchased with no background check and no questions asked. These guns are made by an individual, not a federally licensed manufacturer or importer”. Ghost guns are especially dangerous because they are virtually untraceable and anyone can gain access to them without going through any kind of formal process. This bill would also help to better define what a gun is and hopefully reduce the number of ghost guns in Maryland.  

HB659/SB676- Firearm Safety - Storage Requirements and Youth Suicide Prevention (Jaelynn's Law). The League will be supporting this bill which would alter certain provisions in relating to the storage of firearms and ammunition. It will also require the Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services to develop a youth suicide prevention and firearm safe storage guide, with recommendations from a stakeholder committee. LWVUS-supports gun policy measures to close major loopholes in the law: mandating background checks for all gun show purchases and child safety locks on guns. Making sure a person’s firearm is stored properly and locked away from children can help ensure the safety of everyone in the vicinity. 

The gun violence epidemic is not something that can be solved overnight, but something that will take time. The League of Women Voters Maryland is supporting HB425/SB387 and HB659/SB676 and opposes SB338. 

If you wish to update your email subscription preferences so that you can focus your attention on the issues most critical to you. Simply click here. You can always re-subscribe here: https://www.lwvmd.org/action_signup 

Even if you aren’t subscribed to receive emails in a particular issue area, you can always find updates about these issues on our new Action Blog page. The Action Blog will be a home for all of the updates and Action Alerts shared by our advocates - so you can catch up any time.

For brief and more up-to-the minute details, follow @LWVMD on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

Share

Pending Legislation Could Smooth Change to New Primary Date

Common Cause Maryland, League of Women Voters of Maryland call for additional funding to support primary election outreach and passage of mail-in voting legislation

The Maryland General Assembly is considering legislation that would ensure State and local Boards of Elections are able to navigate changes being made to the primary election due to redistricting. The primary was originally scheduled for June 28, but yesterday the Maryland Court of Appeals rescheduled it for July 19, 2022. The candidate filing deadline will be April 15, 2022. 

Ongoing redistricting litigation has caused uncertainty and delays. But two pending bills – SB 163/HB 329 and HB 862 – include provisions that will help election officials manage the likely increase in eligible voters choosing to vote by mail during a time where many may choose to travel for vacation. These provisions would: provide voters a chance to “cure” any remedial issues with their voted mail-in ballot to prevent rejection; allow for the pre-processing of mail-in ballots to facilitate timely results; and direct that the first certified mail-in ballot be accepted if individuals unintentionally cast more than one ballot in the same election. 

Additional funding for public outreach is needed so that election officials will be able to notify voters of changes.

Joint Statement from Common Cause Maryland & League of Women Voters of Maryland

State and local election officials have been doing all that they can to ensure our primary elections, even with the delay, run smoothly. The General Assembly must do all they can to support their efforts as we await a decision from the court on legal challenges to the congressional and legislative maps adopted by the lawmakers.

We knew this would happen and championed redistricting reform that would have helped avoid this situation. California’s maps are drawn by a truly independent, multi-partisan citizen redistricting commission – and California is one of the few states where there are no outstanding legal challenges to the new maps, and its primary election is not at risk of delay. But Maryland lawmakers chose not to reform the redistricting process, and so they must now respect the decision of the Court delaying the primary. 

Elections officials need final district lines to begin planning polling locations, and the Court has recognized the litigation process will delay that planning. As we prepare for the now July 19th primary election which could very well be pushed back even further, we urge lawmakers to act swiftly on pending legislation that will ensure the local Boards of Elections are prepared to handle the influx of mail-in ballots.

We also urge the General Assembly and Governor Hogan to make adequate funding available for a robust public outreach campaign. Voter confusion is inevitable and we must do all that we can to ensure voters know when and where to vote. The State Board of Elections needs additional funding to communicate with voters via direct mail and all digital platforms. That funding must be allocated right away.

Partisan gerrymandering is not in the best interest of Maryland voters. We hope lawmakers see that as their own races are impacted by these maps. We urge them, again, to work on reforming the process and to put their own partisan interest aside over the next few months to work with election officials – who are already overworked and understaffed – to ensure a smooth primary. 

Share

Losing my son to disease before his third birthday was heartbreaking, but I’m grateful I had the paid leave to care for him; many don’t

Our volunteer Advocate Lisa Barkan writes about the importance of paid leave in a Baltimore Sun op-ed.

Alex being cheeky while wearing a shirt with fish on it, which he loved. (Ed Fee)

                                 (Alex being cheeky while wearing a shirt with fish on it, which he loved.)
My beautiful boy Alex died when he was 2 and a half years old. He was gentle, sweet, headstrong, funny and quirky. He loved the color yellow, the letter F, the number 5 and fish.

Despite the tragedy of Alex’s death, I was lucky. Unlike many working Marylanders, I had a position where I accrued leave, and my fellow employees could donate leave to me when I exhausted mine. I was able to care for and be with my son throughout his illness and receive paid leave. I was able to focus all my energy on taking care of my child. I did not have the added stress of needing to maintain a job. Above all, I was able to spend more time with him and to enjoy my child during his all too brief life. For these reasons I wholeheartedly support the Time to Care Act, filed as House Bill 8 and Senate Bill 275.

Unlike me, many working people in Maryland have no access to paid time off when they or their loved ones are ill. Many people have to choose between paying their rent or buying food and taking care of their loved ones. The Time to Care Act would create a strong paid family and medical leave program. I hope that by sharing my story, the General Assembly will realize that the Time to Care Act must be passed this session.

My son was diagnosed with a rare liver disease when he was only 6 weeks old. At some point after his diagnosis, his doctor told my husband and me that Alex was too sick for both of us to work full time. At that time, I was an assistant attorney general with the state of Maryland. I requested a part-time position, and the Attorney General’s Office was able to accommodate the request. Nonetheless, it was very difficult to work. I had to rush Alex to Johns Hopkins Hospital’s emergency room frequently, and Alex was admitted to the hospital on multiple occasions.

Alex’s liver continued to deteriorate. When he was 8 and a half months old, he needed a liver transplant, and my husband donated a lobe of his liver to our son. I took a four-month leave of absence to care for Alex. After I exhausted the leave I accrued with the state, my co-workers donated time to me. I was paid for the four months.

After his transplant, Alex was fine for a year and a half. I have fond memories of him during that time. One day, my sister visited with her daughter Emily, who is two months younger than Alex. Alex and Emily were running around the house. Suddenly, Emily hit Alex. He then looked at her with his index finger pointed and said, “Emmy sit down right now.” Emily immediately sat down. Wagging his finger at her he continued, “Emmy no hit, hitting isn’t nice.” Then they started running around again. My sister said that she needed to discipline Emily. I told her that Alex already did, and we both laughed.

Unfortunately, Alex developed an aggressive cancer caused by the immunosuppressant he took so his body would not reject his liver. The doctors were shocked. When my son was hospitalized for the last time on Sept. 11, 2001, I told my supervisor that I had to stop working. I could not juggle work and a critically ill child. A CT scan revealed that Alex had a tumor the size of a volleyball in his abdomen. The next day he was connected to a ventilator and given dialysis because his lungs and kidneys failed. He died on Oct. 30. Again, after I exhausted my leave, my co-workers donated leave time to me, and I was paid until I returned to work.

I am so grateful for my co-workers who donated their leave time to me when I exhausted mine. Many working Marylanders cannot take care of their loved ones. They do not have leave or co-workers who are able to donate leave to them. No one should have to choose between having to work or taking care of their loved ones.

The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced how fleeting and precious our lives are. We need to pass the Time to Care Act this legislative session. It provides working Marylanders with an ability to take a breath. It allows them some paid time off to take care of themselves or a loved one without fearing that they will lose their job or be unable to pay for food, rent or their mortgage. It allows Marylanders to share the last days of their loved ones’ lives. I am grateful that I was able to take care of my son and to be with him. I cannot imagine losing any of that precious time. No one should.

Share