Protecting the Right to Vote: Janet Millenson, Team Leader
Through our testimony and our partnership with other advocates in the Everyone Votes Maryland and the Expand the Vote coalitions, the League spoke up for protecting the right to vote and expanding access for all eligible voters. The most important successes among the bills we supported were:
- HB 1048 Election Law – Permanent Absentee Ballot List, Ballot Drop Boxes, and Reports. This legislation allows voters to request permanent absentee ballot status rather than having to apply repeatedly each election cycle. Other registered voters will automatically receive an absentee ballot request form before each primary election. It also establishes criteria for placing ballot drop boxes in locations that are secure, accessible, and equitably distributed both geographically and demographically. Status: sent to Governor.
- HB 222 Election Law – Correctional Facilities – Voter Registration and Voting (Value My Vote Act). Although voting rights were restored in 2016 to felons who have served their sentences and to non-felons currently incarcerated, no program was ever put in place to enable them to exercise that right. HB 222 requires correctional facilities to work with the Board of Elections to provide information and materials for registering to vote and applying for a mail-in ballot. See our testimony here. Status: sent to Governor.
- HB 156 Student and Military Voter Empowerment Act. This legislation improves access to voter registration, voting information, and opportunities to cast a ballot for some relatively underserved populations: college students, residents of retirement communities, and members of the military. Among other provisions, local Boards of Elections will be required to take into account such large residential institutions when establishing precinct polling places. Status: sent to Governor.
Our biggest disappointment was the legislature’s failure to pass HB 1047, the Mail-In Voting Enhancement Act. This bill would have made permanent two popular procedures implemented in 2020 on an emergency basis — ballot tracking and ballot curing (contacting voters who failed
to sign the oath). Unfortunately, the Senate and the House ultimately could not agree on a provision that would have allowed pre-processing of mail-in ballots to start before Election Day. Going forward, we want to turn our efforts toward several issues that either failed to pass this
year or were not adequately addressed in the first place:
- Circuit Court judges: selection process; contested vs. retention elections
- Special elections to fill legislative vacancies in a timely fashion
- District voting rather than at-large for certain representatives
- Mail-in voting: early canvassing; ballot curing procedures; security concerns (e.g.,signature verification); voter registration database improvements