LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS®
LWVMD Position: Voting Rights and Election Administration
VOTING RIGHTS AND ELECTION ADMINISTRATION
- An election system that is equitable, accessible, fiscally responsible, accountable and enforceable. (1997 and 2001)
- Mandatory training for all election judges with the state providing basic training instructions.
- A minimum compensation level for election judges set by the state.
- A restructured Maryland State Board of Elections (MSBE) – formerly the State Administrative Board of Election Laws (SABEL).
- a. giving MSBE legal authority and adequate funding to enforce election laws and regulations;
- b. giving MSBE legal authority and funding to develop and maintain a centralized, computerized voter registration list and a centralized, computerized campaign finance reporting system;
- c. staggered terms for members of MSEB;
- d. a professional administrator hired by MSBE.
- Statewide uniformity of voting registration and registration records.
- A uniform, simple system for accurate identification of voters at the polls.
- A registration deadline set as close as possible to primary and general elections, consistent with technology that provides ballot security and makes the administration of the deadline cost-effective. (“Ballot security” assures ballot secrecy and prevents fraudulently cast ballots.)
- Provisional ballots, with a strong preference that voters be notified if they are later found not eligible to vote. Provisional ballots allow a voter whose name is not listed on the polling place election register to vote a ballot which is sealed and segregated from regularly cast ballots until the election authority can confirm the voter’s eligibility. They provide ballot security, are convenient for the voter and avoid disenfranchisement of voters due to administrative error.
- Early voting, but at a limited number of sites in order to assure ballot security.
- A permanent application list for absentee voters who affirm that they have a permanent physical condition which necessitates absentee voting. Election authorities would then automatically send to those voters applications for absentee ballots. A permanent application list, restricted to those with disabling physical conditions, fosters access of the disabled to voting, and provides ballot security.
- Study, research and pilot projects to determine the feasibility of Internet voting.
- A requirement for uniform voting systems unless funded by the state. (1997)
Background: The League of Women Voters, since its beginning, 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. Although League members in Maryland worked closely with election laws through voter service work, it was not until 1953 that LWVMD studied any aspect of these laws as a program item. In 1969 LWVMD embarked on a comprehensive three-year study which covered constitutional provisions, laws and administrative practices of the election process.
The 1994 gubernatorial election brought forward questions about the quality and integrity of the process, which prompted LWVMD to review and study the adequacy of our positions on Election Administration. Although neither the Attorney General, the Special Prosecutor, nor the Circuit Court found evidence to substantiate allegations of fraud, a League survey of elections officials across the state found conflicting and outdated areas of the law. Our study went on to focus on the methods used for counting votes, on procedures for voter registration and identification at the polls, how election judges are selected and trained, and the funding of the election process. The League’s study ran concurrently with a 1995 state task force to review the election laws, and the 1996-1997 Commission to Revise the Election Code.
Delegates to the 1999 LWVMD Convention adopted a Study to develop Positions which would further the League’s “Making Democracy Work” project by increasing voter participation. League members applied generally accepted criteria to evaluate an election system in reaching their consensus. The criteria asked whether the proposed system would: produce ballot security; result in an accurate ballot count; be convenient to voters; be efficient and cost-effective; be non-discriminatory; promote education of voters; be accessible to the disabled; and be safe for all voters.
The consensus was that LWVMD should support a shortened deadline for registration, provisional balloting, early voting, a permanent absentee list (with conditions), and a study of Internet voting. No consensus was reached on all-mail voting or publication by the state of an informational packet for voters. The LWVUS supports same-day registration – no consensus was reached by LWVMD on whether to pursue that change in Maryland.
At the 2004 LWVUS convention, delegates voted on the following language in regard to voting systems: “LWVUS supports the implementation of voting systems and procedures that are secure, accurate, recountable and accessible.” Local Leagues were instructed to consult LWVUS before taking a position on a specific type of voting system to ensure that the League speaks consistently. This language was the basis for much of LWVMD testimony in the 2005 legislative session.
In 2005-2006, after a flurry of bills, some passed, some vetoed, vetoes overridden and court actions, LWVMD presented a study reviewing current law and LWVMD and LWVUS positions on election process. See Election Process Fact Sheet in E-Library at www.lwvmd.org.
At the 2006 LWVUS Convention, delegates tried to further clarify the position on voting systems by adopting a resolution that said that LWVUS only supports voting systems that are designed so that: they employ a voter-verifiable paper ballot or other paper record, said paper being the official record of the voter’s intent; and the voter can verify, either by eye or with the aid of suitable devices for those who have impaired vision, that the paper ballot/record accurately reflects his or her intent; and such verification takes place while the voter is still in the process of voting; and the paper ballot/record is used for audits and recounts; and the vote totals can be verified by an independent hand count of the paper ballot/record; and routine audits of the paper ballot/record in randomly selected precincts can be conducted in every election, and the results published by the jurisdiction. A LWVMD committee was convened to provide guidance on the interpretation on this new position as it applied to voting systems that were being proposed during the 2007 General Assembly session.
- Supported bill giving the election administration power to evaluate and certify alternative voting systems for local use. (achieved)
- Spearheaded effort (1973-76) for registration-by-mail in Maryland. (achieved)
- Monitored the use and safety of computerized voting systems. (1988)
- Supported voting rights of first offenders, or those committing a minor crime. (1974, 1978 achieved)
- Acted to extend absentee voting rights for overseas and student voters. (1985)
- Supported the creation of a uniform voter registration form which would be available in state offices and libraries. (1985 – achieved)
- Supported passage of the “State Motor Voter” provisions. (achieved)
- Worked to give greater access to the ballot, particularly for independent and minor party candidates. (A Maryland court decision extended time to gather signatures for nominating petitions)
- Supported legislation allowing voter registration forms to be considered timely if mailed on the deadline date. (1989 – achieved)
- Supported a bill requiring the names of candidates who are unopposed in a primary election to be placed on the ballot. (1991 – achieved)
- Opposed moving the Presidential primary date to the first Tuesday in March. (1991)
- Closely monitored the 1995 Governor’s Task Force to Review the State Election Law and the 1996-97 Commission to Revise the Election Code.
- Supported drawing juror pools from lists of licensed drivers in addition to lists of registered voters. (1995, 1996, 1997 – Local option achieved; 2001 – statewide achieved)
- Testified before the Commission and the General Assembly in support of restructuring the Maryland State Board of Elections. (1997-1998 – achieved);
- Supported provisional ballots. (2001 – achieved)
- Supported statewide voter registry. (2001 – achieved)
- Supported adoption of uniform statewide voting systems if funded by state. (2001 – achieved, with state sharing costs with local jurisdictions)
- Opposed requiring voters to present photo ID or social security number at the polls. (2001, 2005, 2006, 2007 – defeated)
- Supported restoration of voting rights to all convicted felons after completion of sentence and probation. (2002 – achieved, but with restrictions for waiting periods)
- Supported notifying a voter whether his provisional ballot was accepted or rejected. (2002)
- Supported a study of independent voter system verification systems. (2005)
- Supported clarified procedures for provisional ballots. (2002, 2005)
- Supported automatic mailing of absentee ballot application to disabled or elderly citizens. (2005)
- Supported early voting. (2005 – achieved, but vetoed by Governor)
- Supported overriding veto of Early Voting. (achieved 2006, declared unconstitutional by the Court of Appeals)
- Supported absentee ballot voting on demand. (2005 achieved but vetoed by Governor, veto overridden)
- Supported a voting system that provides for dual independent verification. ( 2006 not achieved)
- Supported overriding a veto of an act that would clarify identification requirements, prohibit acts intended to influence voters not to vote, and improve procedures for counting provisional ballots. (2006 – achieved)
- Supported replacing Maryland’s Direct Recording Electronic voting system with an optical scan system. (2007 – achieved but only if funding is authorized in 2009 in time for implementation for 2010 elections)
- Opposed increasing mandates on the State Board of Elections regarding timing of distribution of training manuals, and decision making about local precincts. (2007 – defeated)
- Supported improvements to the provisional ballot process. (2007 – not achieved)
- Supported eliminating all barriers to voting for any felon who has completed a court ordered sentence. (2007 – achieved)
- Supported creating a task force on instant voter registration and voting by mail. (2007 – not achieved)
- Supported a constitutional amendment to authorize early voting. (2007 – passed by legislature, referendum in 2008)
- Opposed reducing the number of days voters have to register before an election and the number of days to turn in an absentee ballot application. (2007 – defeated)
- Opposed mandate on State Board of Elections to create a State Voter Referendum Guide. (2007 – defeated.)
- Supported Early Voting as approved by Constitutional Amendment. Early voting dates will be the second Friday before an election through the Thursday before an election at least one early voting location in each county. (2009 – passed)