MACo Encourages Early Voting Center Expansions as a “Local Option”

On February 5th, Kevin Kinnally represented MACo in front of the Ways & Means Committee by testifying in support with amendments for HB 79 – Election Law – Early Voting Centers – Establishment and Hours.

This bill would increase the required number of early voting centers in counties with at least 100,000 registered voters while retaining a local option for smaller counties to add one additional location.

By applying an amendment in which the local option would be applied statewide, jurisdictions would be relieved from a mandate and counties would, therefore, be able to weigh costs appropriately.

From the MACo testimony:

HB 79 expands the number of early voting centers by decreasing the threshold of registered voters that trigger a specific, higher number of minimum locations. For counties with fewer than 200,000 registered voters, it continues to allow them to determine locally whether to offer an additional early voting site.Providing early voting locations entails substantial costs for equipment purchases/leases, equipment storage and transportation, staff compensation and training, and other overhead.

These costs are nearly fully borne by the county governments.MACo urges an amendment to HB 79 to make any further expansion of early voting centers a “local option,” having the expanded number of sites be a decision for each county governing body. This way, each jurisdiction could assess its demand, geography, and suitable facility locations, all with community input. They could then weigh the expanded sites as a local spending priority.

The current law contains contingent language as follows: “if the State Board, in collaboration with the local board, and the governing body of the county agree to establish an additional early voting center.”[1] This language seems to accomplish the objective of a local option appropriately, and should be attached to the full content of HB 79, rather than just the smaller counties.[1] Section 10-301.1(b)(9) of the Election Law Article

For more on 2019 MACo legislation, visit the Legislative Database.