Opinion pieces in the Baltimore Sun and the Frederick News Post discuss the high early voter turnout that occurred during the recent presidential election and offer their suggestions for improving the process for upcoming elections.
Requiring voters to stand in line for three hours is unacceptable. This year’s debacle can be forgiven — at least somewhat — as state officials had no previous experience with early voting in a presidential election year, and the storm made matters worse. But there were also clues that this might happen. Four years ago, early voting centers were similarly mobbed in those states that offered them, and the problem surfaced elsewhere this year, too.
As a solution to the long lines that occurred during this election, it is being suggested that “the General Assembly should give local election boards the discretion to add additional early voting centers where and when that is justified.” It is being argued that this would give flexibility for more populated jurisdictions to have more than five sites and for jurisdictions with fewer registered voters, but larger in square miles, to have more than one. State statute determines the number of locations each jurisdiction may have.
When 17 percent of the electorate chooses early voting, as happened this year in Maryland, that’s something of a mandate. But better to leave the specifics of how to serve more people more effectively to the discretion of county employees than to force extra machines and locations on jurisdictions that don’t need them. That might keep partisans happy but would also be like forcing every gas station to be open 24 hours — helpful to some, wasteful to most.