February 16, 2018 - The League of Women Voters of Maryland and Common Cause Maryland were pleased to testify in favor of SB 190 Election Law - International Election Observers. International observers have been visiting polling places in the United States to learn about our election processes for decades. They come through programs sponsored by organizations such as the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. This is considered a valuable democracy-building practice.
SB 190 will simply enable the Maryland State Board of Elections (SBE) to authorize these International observers to be added to the list of individuals authorized to be in a polling place on Election Day. Of course, this is only after these individuals have gone through a review process adopted by the SBE.
These observers will not be allowed to speak to voters, touch election equipment, ascertain how a voter votes or assist any voter in voting. An election judge may eject an international observer who attempts any of these prohibited activities.
We have been disappointed to see this issue turned into a platform for misleading partisan grandstanding, particularly given the bill’s unanimous, bipartisan support in the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs committee. The use of international observers not only helps strengthen oversight and security of our elections here in America, it shows leadership by example to nations abroad about the power of open, fair elections.
Particularly after the 2016 elections, where foreign actors attempted to electronically infiltrate voter rolls across the country, it's important for legislators to take election security seriously. But the rhetoric in opposition to SB 190 has not been an example of taking our election security seriously. Sowing doubt with inaccurate information assists those who would undermine our elections– it does not help.