Protecting the Vote 2023 Issue Paper

PROTECTING THE VOTE

submitted by Janet Millenson

The League of Women Voters of the United States believes that voting is a fundamental citizen right that must be guaranteed.  Since its beginning, the League has urged state, local and federal governments to reform election laws and procedures so that voters have an equal voice in the entire election process and are encouraged to participate.

The pandemic upended Maryland’s 2020 election process, but even though conditions have improved, 2022 made it clear we’re not going to return to the voting patterns of previous years. For one thing, mail-in ballots no longer amount to a mere five or six percent of the total ballots cast. In November’s election these represented more than a quarter of the total — over half a million. This change has major implications for the state and local Boards of Elections’ operations.

Another significant challenge in 2022 arose when the Primary Election date was postponed for three weeks as a final decennial redistricting plan worked its way through the courts. This date change led to a severe shortage of election workers and the need to relocate several polling places that had become unavailable. The ensuing delay in certifying the election results also shortened the time available to prepare ballots for November.

Despite the compressed timeline, the General Election went well for the most part. The State Board of Elections obtained court authorization to start processing the flood of mail-in ballots before Election Day, which helped enable statewide results to be certified in early December.

The League will continue to advocate for improvements in many of the areas we focused on last year: administration, access, and accountability. We anticipate that some issues can be resolved via regulations rather than legislation.

* ALLOW PROCESSING OF MAIL-IN BALLOTS BEFORE ELECTION DAY. It’s still not in statute. Last year the General Assembly did finally pass a bill (SB 163) that would have codified the ability of local Boards of Elections to deal with the vast increase of ballots returned by mail or drop box. (Our 2022 testimony in favor of SB 163 can be found on the MGA website here.) Maryland is the only state requiring all ballot processing to wait until after Election Day. Unfortunately, outgoing Governor Hogan vetoed SB 163 in late May because he disapproved of its other provisions, making it impossible for the legislature to override the veto. Although the option to start ballot processing early has been authorized on an emergency basis several times recently, we need to ensure it becomes permanent. The League will support this effort. 

* MAKE OTHER IMPROVEMENTS TO THE VOTE-BY-MAIL PROCESS. Ballot tracking is a popular feature that should be enhanced to provide prompt updates on the status of voters’ mail-in ballots. This will help reduce the number of people who come in person to vote provisionally because they’re not sure if the ballot they put in a mailbox or drop box actually reached the Board of Elections. Also, if a mail-in ballot arrives on time but the oath is unsigned, voters should be offered options to “cure” the problem rather than have their ballot rejected. These upgrades may not require legislative mandates; they can be implemented by the state Board of Elections.

* ENSURE BETTER ACCESSIBILITY FOR ALL VOTERS. The League’s bedrock position on the election process is that it should increase voter participation and be equitable and accessible. Although much progress has been made in recent years to help voters with disabilities and to increase outreach to underserved populations, there are still gaps to be addressed. The League works closely with a variety of advocacy groups to push for laws and regulations that will accomplish this. We will continue to oppose bills that could disenfranchise qualified voters.

* REVIEW AND IMPROVE THE ELECTION PROCESS. Hundreds of experienced election workers stayed home in 2020 and didn’t return in 2022, leaving a large shortfall in many polling places. Offering higher stipends and flexible scheduling will make it easier to recruit and retain election workers. Board of Elections staffers are also underpaid for the essential, complex work they do. However, there also needs to be a better means to oversee the Boards and to ensure the transparency of major procurements.

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Orphans Court 2023 Issue Paper

Orphans Court

submitted by Ralph Watkins

In Maryland, the court that oversees the administration of the estates of residents who have died, and also resolves any disputes that arise over wills or estates, is called the Orphans’ Court.  

Unlike the judges of all other Maryland courts, Orphans’ Court judges are nominated by the political parties and are not required to be attorneys, except in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, and Prince George’s County. In three jurisdictions, Harford, Howard, and Montgomery counties, the position of Orphans’ Court judge has been eliminated and those cases are heard by the Circuit Court judges. In all other counties, there are three Orphans’ Court judges, regardless of the population of the county. Accordingly, in the more populous counties the judges work full-time while in the smaller counties the judges’ position is part-time.

In 2021, a Task Force to Study the Maryland Orphans’ Court made recommendations to the General Assembly, including the elimination of partisan elections, lengthening the term from 4 to 8 years, and authorizing the Governor to appoint a judge to fill a vacancy.

The League supports allowing each county to choose whether to keep or eliminate its Orphans’ Court.  (In 2022, the Maryland constitution was amended to eliminate the Orphans’ Court judges in Howard County, a change that required approval by both a majority of voters statewide and a majority of Howard County voters.)   In addition, the League favors nonpartisan election of Orphans’ Court judges as well as allowing both attorneys and non-attorneys to serve as judges.  The League position has also called for a change in the name of the court to more clearly describe its function.

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Circuit Court 2023 Issue Paper

Circuit Court

submitted by Ralph Watkins

Election of Judges – Maryland has an unusual process for choosing judges of Circuit Courts, the courts in which all jury trials are held.  For the past 50 years, Maryland governors have relied on Judicial Nominating Commissions composed of attorneys and others to recommend candidates for appointment to all courts.  While judges of the Supreme Court of Maryland, the Appellate Court of Maryland, and the District Courts are appointed by the Governor with confirmation by the state Senate, the judges of the Circuit Court are appointed by the Governor and are not subject to Senate approval. Upon appointment by the Governor, a Circuit Court judge takes office and begins to preside over cases, but must be elected by the voters in the next general election. In that election, any attorney who has been a member of the Maryland bar for at least 5 years can run against the appointed judge. These contested elections for Circuit Court judge are also unusual in that all candidates appear on both the Republican and Democratic primary ballots, but not on the nonpartisan ballots, so voters who are not affiliated with the two major parties are excluded from the first stage of the selection process.

The Circuit Court judge selection process has been subject to criticism for many years. In some instances, when there had been a pattern of failure to appoint African American or other minorities to the bench, there were successful challenges that led to a more diverse bench in some jurisdictions. In other cases, however, women and minority judges appointed by the governor were defeated by white male candidates. Thus, although contested elections can serve as a check on a governor’s abuse of the appointment power, they do not always serve this function effectively. Concerns have also been raised about the financing of judges’ election campaigns as the major contributors are lawyers who are likely to have cases before the judge during the election or shortly thereafter.  

For the last several years, legislation to eliminate contested elections for Circuit Court judges has been introduced in the Maryland General Assembly but has not passed. The Maryland courts and LWVMD have supported this legislation. Similarly, legislation was introduced to permit unaffiliated voters to vote for Circuit Court judges. To address these longstanding issues, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Maryland appointed a Judicial Selection Workgroup in September 2022 to review the entire process for choosing Circuit Court judges with a goal of making recommendations for improvement.  Ralph Watkins was appointed to the Workgroup representing the League of Women Voters of Maryland. The Workgroup heard presentations on academic studies conducted by the Brennan Center for Justice, the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System and others, as well as public testimony. The Workgroup will  meet in January to discuss whether consensus can be reached on recommendations to present to the 2023 session of the General Assembly.

The League of Women Voters of Maryland supports the Governor appointing judges from a list of candidates recommended by a merit selection panel, with retention elections used to determine if judges would serve additional terms.  

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Transportation 2023 Issue Paper

Transportation

submitted by Bee Ditzler

With a new administration we expect changes in the transportation bills that are signed into law. The composition of the legislature remains much as it had been for the previous 2022 session, but their transportation focus may differ. We expect bills that encompass equity, safety, and the environment will be introduced and likely pass. 

The LWVUS believes that energy-efficient and environmentally sound transportation systems should afford better access to housing and jobs. LWVMD positions on transportation include: An integrated transportation system and mass transit systems which are efficient, safe, clean and accessible, adequate and equitable funding and cooperative regional programs to achieve these goals, maintaining the solvency of the Transportation Trust Fund, increasing funding for mass transit and developing regional visions and frameworks for transportation which reflect local concerns and which incorporate relevant LWV positions on land use, economic development and environmental protection. 

As LWVMD continues to advocate on multiple bills, we may see that transportation issues are a component of many of them. Transportation doesn’t just involve cars and roads, but also buses, trains, air service, trucks, land use, our environment, health, the economy, and of course bikes and pedestrians. Transportation issues affect everyone and LWVMD advocates analyze bills and promote those that support equity, our environment, and safety through good transportation policy.

Delegate Sheila Ruth last year filed a bill to collect and analyze data on racial and ethnic disparities in transportation and how persons with disabilities are impacted. This was to help in decision making to promote equity in the state transportation system. It was vetoed by Governor Hogan and we expect it to be reintroduced.

Delegate Jazz Lewis is expected to introduce a bill designed to require MDOT to include an analysis of the impacts of proposed transportation projects such as highway construction on minority and lower income communities.

Also, Del. Lewis is expected to reintroduce a bill that was called, “Equitable and Inclusive Transit-Oriented Development Enhancement Act”. It passed the Senate but not the House. The bill would provide small, competitive grants and loans to support transit-oriented development planning and construction, and expand incentives to create jobs and housing near transit. 

Delegate Lorig Charkoudian’s bill, “The SAFE Roads Act” would require the State Highway Administration (SHA) to conduct an analysis of the corridors and intersections across the state where pedestrian and bike rider injuries and fatalities occur, and then recommend engineering and safety improvements that would eliminate those accidents. SHA also would need to develop a budget and timeline to implement those improvements. This didn’t pass last year, but we expect it to be reintroduced in some form.

Delegate Marc Korman introduced “The Maryland Rail Investment Act” to establish the Maryland Rail Authority but it did not pass. This would fund and implement new rail and transit projects including improvements to the Brunswick, Camden and Penn (MARC) commuter rail lines, constructing the Southern Maryland Rapid Transit System and constructing the Baltimore Red Line. 

Numerous bills are expected involving electrifying our transportation system. These involve cars, trucks, buses, trains, charging stations, etc. 

So far, it’s unknown if there will be any bills which involve Private Public Partnerships (P3) reforms. As transparency advocates, we should look for these.

Both the House and Senate will see environmental bills that may involve transportation as well. Solutions may include investing in better transit services, encouraging smart roadway pricing, and better syncing transportation with land use. Some of the biggest challenges in transportation can be solved through better land use. Bringing essential trips closer to where people live is a vital part of transportation. Environmental justice may see more bills that help us to implement a more environmental and just transportation system. 

Many legislators seem to be evaluating what the new governor will do policy-wise for the state. They are investigating how Governor Moore’s four big ideas of 1) Cleaner Maryland Transit, 2) Quality Public Transit, 3) Road and Pedestrian Safety, and 4) Transit Hubs and Physical Infrastructure will translate into laws they make.

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.

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Healthcare 2023 Issue Paper

Healthcare

submitted  by Nora Miller Smith 

The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced one of the fundamental principles of public health: “No one is safe until everyone is safe.” 

The LWVMD believes that healthcare is a human right. ALL Marylanders need accessible, equitable, affordable, comprehensive, quality health care, which includes disease prevention and health education, primary care, reproductive health care, acute care, long-term care, and mental health care. 

Marylanders’ access to equitable health care was improved last year with the passage of important legislation including: Healthy Babies Equity Act, Abortion Access Act, Dental Coverage for Adults on Medicaid, Consumer Health Information Act, Insulin Cost Reduction Act, and Small Business and Nonprofit Health Insurance Subsidies Program Workgroup. But more work needs to be done.

The Maryland Legislature’s Issue Papers 2023 Legislative Session references the Commonwealth Fund’s 2022 Scorecard on State Health System Performance for Maryland. While Maryland did well in terms of adult smoking (ranking fourth out of the 50 states and D.C.) and suicide deaths (ranking sixth), its state ranking was 27th for infant mortality, 45th for drug overdose deaths, and 46th for adults with mental illness reporting unmet need. “Disparity indicators” such as uninsured adults (23rd), uninsured children (28th), adults who went without care because of cost in the past year (39th), or children without all recommended vaccines (41st) illustrates the severity of too many Marylanders’ unmet health care needs. 

Racial and ethnic health equity disparities were evident in the report as well. Twelve percent of U.S. adults age 19-64 are uninsured. But in Maryland, while only 4% of White residents are uninsured, 29% of Latinx residents have no health insurance coverage. The Issue Paper notes that “Maryland’s health outcomes are considered lower than expected given that the State has one of the highest median household incomes in the U.S.” 

It is expected that multiple bills will be introduced this year to expand health care access and equity. Some initiatives that the League will support include:

-Increasing health insurance coverage for more Marylanders. Approximately 6% of Marylanders have no health insurance, which includes 225,000-275,000 undocumented immigrants who are not eligible for insurance through the marketplace or Medicaid. Increasing subsidies and changing the regulations so that more Marylanders, including undocumented immigrants, can purchase coverage through the marketplace will help reduce that number, as will expanding eligibility for coverage under Medicaid. 

-Increasing behavioral health services, including home, community, and school-based resources for adults and children, especially in underserved communities

-Protecting access to reproductive health care. Last year’s Abortion Access law expanded the types of medical providers able to provide abortion care, and required health insurers and Medicaid to cover abortion services without cost sharing. This year the legislature is expected to reintroduce the proposal to add an amendment to the State constitution establishing “the fundamental right to reproductive liberty.” This is more important than ever due to the Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe v Wade last year.

-Shielding medical providers from prosecution when caring for pregnant people needing abortions who travel to Maryland from states with abortion bans.  

-Expanding Medicaid coverage for gender-affirming care. Many private insurances cover a wide variety of medically necessary and life-saving treatments for Marylanders with gender dysphoria. Medicaid coverage for low-income Marylanders, however is very restricted. This is discriminatory, and is counter to both Maryland and federal law. 

-Decreasing food insecurity by supporting efforts to simplify the application process for SNAP benefits, and to improve the operation of the program.

-Reducing the number of Marylanders saddled with medical debt, and ensuring that those low-income patients who had been eligible for free hospital care but who had incorrectly been billed- and had paid those bills- will be reimbursed.

-Increasing transparency in medical billing and strengthening patient rights.

-Strengthening school vision services, so that children who fail vision screenings are able to obtain comprehensive care, including eyes exams and, if needed, glasses. 

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.

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Campaign Finance 2023 Issue Paper

Campaign Reform

submitted by Nancy Soreng

Every election cycle, increasingly large amounts of money are poured into political campaigns by wealthy individuals, corporations, political action committees and sources that are difficult to trace. Representative democracy is distorted by big spending in elections. This can impact political equity and discourage citizen participation in the political process. The League believes that the public has the right to know who is using money to influence elections and how much they are spending. 

The LWVUS position on campaign finance supports: 

  • Public financing of elections, either voluntary or mandatory, in which candidates must abide by reasonable spending limits; 
  • enhanced enforcement of campaign finance laws that includes changes to ensure that regulatory agencies are properly funded, staffed, and structured to avoid partisan deadlock in the decision-making process; 
  • abolishing Super PACs and abolishing spending coordinated or directed by candidates (other than a candidate’s own campaign committee);
  • and restrictions on direct donations and bundling by lobbyists, which may include monetary limits as well as other regulations.

LWVMD has supported campaign reform bills in three major areas: voluntary programs that prohibit accepting large campaign contributions and encourage candidates to accept small donations from a large pool of donors in order to qualify for matching public funds; legislation that increases transparency in campaign fundraising and spending as well refinements to campaign finance laws that increase compliance; and legislation that seeks to eliminate outright deception in campaign advertising.  

In 2022 we supported Senate Bill 15 which strengthened many penalties and procedures for holding campaigns accountable.  It extends the statute of limitation for levying a penalty for campaign finance violations from three years to five years. This was important because it’s not always possible to discover and investigate unethical/illegal campaign activity within a 3-year timeframe. SB 15 also prohibits anyone from becoming a campaign treasure or candidate if in any of the 5 previous years they have failed to pay a civil penalty that was levied and it increased the maximum penalty for campaign finance violations. 

Typically, LWVMD testifies about campaign finance legislation that requires transparency for the general public to understand the sources and amounts of donations that candidates are receiving.  Last session, we supported HB 17 that requires the candidate to be more transparent with their donors and it seeks to eliminate a corrupt practice of charging donors for a recurring contribution when that may not have been their intention.

Another bill that we supported in 2022, SB 239, prohibits the use of donor information that is published on the State Board of Elections website for commercial or solicitation purposes. We supported this legislation, because the fact that there was no prohibition on using donor information in this way could cause citizens to hesitate to participate in the political process.

LWVMD and LWVUS have supported the establishment of public campaign finance programs for many years.  Unfortunately, such a program has only be enacted in Maryland for candidates for Governor. Voluntary programs such as this can increase the number of candidates who have the capacity to run for office and reduce the influence of big money on those candidates as they are only allowed to raise small sums from a large number of donors.  We will continue to support such legislation when it is introduced.

In 2023, LWVMD will support legislation that promotes fair campaigns, transparency in funding, and effective enforcement of campaign laws.  

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.

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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].

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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

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