Elections Study Cites Concerns With Extending Early Voting to Sunday

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In the budget analysis for the State Board of Elections, the Department of Legislative Services (DLS) provided an overview of recent studies to improve access to voting.  One option to improve access is to extend early voting to the Sunday before election day.  However, local election officials expressed concerns with this approach, which has county cost implications and many logistical issues.

MACo recently opposed legislation to extend early voting to the Sunday before election day citing concerns expressed by the local election directors. From MACo’s testimony:

Under current law, early voting ends the Thursday prior to Election Day, which gives the local boards of election and the State Board of Elections (SBE) ample time to update epollbooks and deliver them to Election Day polling locations. HB 263 would end the early voting period on Sunday, two days prior to election day, making it extremely difficult for small jurisdictions to update epollbooks, and making it practically impossible in larger jurisdictions.

MACo believes more time is needed to examine the cost implications and logistical issues before further expanding early voting.

The sponsor of the Senate Bill (SB 200), Senator Bill Ferguson, offered amendments during the bill hearing on February 6 to extend the bill’s effective date to address these concerns.

The studies highlighted in the analysis were required by HB 224/SB 279 Election Law – Improving Access to Voting (Ch. 157 and 158, Acts of 2013) which passed last session and examined the following:  (1) an analysis of extending early voting to the Sunday before the election; (2) an analysis of voting wait times; (3) an accessibility and usability evaluation of the online ballot marking tool; and (4) the security of online voter services.

Below are the summarized findings from the analysis.

The option to extend early voting to the Sunday before the election was reportedly not viewed favorably by local election directors. The study found that in Maryland, as is true nationally, voting wait times are longer for early voters and voters in larger jurisdictions and are impacted by ballot length. SBE has made adjustments to its online absentee ballot marking tool as a result of the accessibility and usability evaluation; however, some additional work is required. No security issues were found with the online voter services.