In response to the long lines experienced during this past fall’s Presidential General Election, Governor Martin O’Malley is seeking legislation this session to improve access to voting. SB 279/HB 224, which were recently introduced, would expand the number of early voting locations in some jurisdictions, provide for voter registration during early voting, and improve access to absentee ballots. From a summary of the bill provided by the Governor’s Office:
The legislation creates new tiers for determining the number of early voting sites per county:
- Up to 125,000 voters – 1 Early Voting Center. Includes: Allegany, Calvert, Caroline, Carroll, Cecil, Charles, Dorchester, Garrett, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Saint Mary’s, Somerset, Talbot, Washington, Wicomico, Worcester (change: none)
- 125,000 – 300,000 – 3 Early Voting Centers. Includes: Frederick, Harford, Howard (change: Frederick and Harford increase by 2 sites)
- 300,000- 450,000 – 5 Early Voting Centers. Includes: Anne Arundel, Baltimore City (change: none)
- Over 450,000 – 8 Early Voting Centers (change: all counties increase by 3 sites). Includes: Baltimore County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County
The legislation would also increase the number of early voting days by two.
The same day voting provision would allow an individual who is not registered to vote, to go to an early voting location within the individual’s county to register and case a ballot. The summary document further elaborates on the process that would be used to verify voters:
The Process: The State Board of Elections (SBE) has developed some initial, high-level plans for the administration of this provision. SBE would incorporate into the electronic pollbook database, the names, addresses, and dates of birth of individuals who are of voting age population, but not registered to vote. The primary source for this data will be the Motor Vehicle Administration, but other databases will be considered and used if available and reliable. Having this data will streamline the process of registering an individual at the early voting center and provide a high level of confidence of the authenticity of the information being provided by the registrant.
To improve access to absentee ballots, the bill would allow the SBE to send ballots to voters by internet or fax.