LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS®
LWVMD Testimony: Support of SB 630 – ELECTION LAW – PETITION SIGNATURES
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. A decision by the State Election Board to impose very strict rules for signatures on referendum petition drives has clearly had the result of denying a substantial number of legally registered voters their voice in this important segment of the election process. We recognize that the State Election Board’s decision was based upon a decision by the Court of Appeals, and we believe that a legislative response to this Court of Appeals decision is warranted.
For many years local election boards have used a standard of “reasonable certainty” in evaluation of petition signatures. In comparing name and address information on a petition signature with voter registration data, if local election board staff was able to make a reasonably certain determination that the petition signer was a registered voter, the signature was valid. The reality is that many registered voters, in particular those who registered to vote decades ago do not remember the exact permutation of their name with which they registered, for instance did it include middle name or middle initial? Voters who have made an effort to participate in the election process by signing a petition should not be denied this right by an unnecessarily strict cross-match requirement as a result of the voter’s failure to recall how he or she signed his or her name many years earlier. The League supports SB 630, as we did SB 240 in 2010, because it codifies what has been established practice of both the State Board of Elections and local boards of elections when they have reviewed referendum and candidate petitions for certification on to the ballot for the past 30 years.
The League suggests that SB 630 be amended to have an effective date of July 1, 2011 instead of October 1, 2011 as stated in the bill. We also support a change to line 21 page 1 from “sign “to “support”; line 3(i) delete “as it was signed.”;and delete lines 14 and 15 on page 2 since over the course of years how one signs their name changes. In lieu of asking staff of the Board of Elections to compare signatures, which requires special skills and will not necessary result in an accurate determination of the identity of the person signing the position, we ask you to consider adding the requirement that signers provide the month and day of their birth. This information is recorded on voter registration rolls and would provide a third point of reference to determine if the person signing the petition is a registered voter.
We urge your positive action on SB 630 with amendments.