Although it looked like it was going to be a light year for election legislation in the early days of the session, by the end of the session, a substantial number of bills relating to voting, elections and ballots were filed and heard. The session ended, however, with very few enacted bills dealing with elections.
A number of bills, which would have stiffened Maryland Voter ID law, had one hearing each, and no further action. These include HB 113, HB 705, and SB 412. Inasmuch as the League’s position is that tougher voter ID laws disenfranchise voters, the lack of action on these bills is a positive result in the eyes of the League.
It only affects one jurisdiction – Montgomery County – so we did not report on HB 725 during the session. However, this legislation passed both houses. HB 725 – Montgomery County – County Council Special Elections – Voting by Mail MC5-12, sponsored by the Montgomery County Delegation, might be one of the more interesting pieces of successful election legislation this year. The bill authorizes the County Council to require that a special election for the Montgomery County Council be conducted by mail balloting, and describes limitations and requirements. This is the first time that vote-by-mail elections have been authorized at this level in Maryland. HB 225 – Election Law – Special Elections – Voting by Mail, sponsored by Delegates Cardin, Barvre, Gilchrest, Kramer, Luedkte and Simmons, would have allowed voting by mail in a special election for Congressional representatives, members of a local Board of Education, and voting on proposed charters. It was heard in the House Ways & Means Committee, but no further action was taken.
Both Houses of the General Assembly successfully passed HJ3/SJ2 - Maryland Ratification of the 17th Amendment to the United States Constitution. The 17th Amendment specifies that the people of each state elect U.S. Senators. The amendment also specifies that when vacancies occur in the Senate representation of a state, the executive authority has to issue writs of election (requiring that an election be held) to fill such vacancies. The 17th Amendment was ratified by the required three-fourths of states in 1913, and Maryland has now joined them.
Also successful was HB 173 - Election Law - Voter Registration Agencies - Electronic Signatures, authorizing an applicant registering to vote at a voter registration agency to consent to the use of an electronic copy of the applicant's signature that is on file with the voter registration agency as the applicant's signature for the application being submitted; and requiring a voter registration agency to transmit an electronic copy of the signature of specified applicants for voter registration to the State Board within 5 days.
Legislation that was not passed by both houses include HB 657 – Election Law – Subsequent Election Absentee Ballot List, several pieces of legislation that would have reduced the number of days of Early Voting (HB452 and SB 69), and legislation that would have allowed Election Day voter registration at Early Voting polling Places (SB 339).