MACo Supports Reasonable Flexibility for Canvass of Absentee Ballots

On February 6, 2020, MACo Associate Director Kevin Kinnally testified before the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee in support SB 362 – Election Law – Absentee Ballots – Timing of Canvass with amendments to clarify inconsistencies between state statute and COMAR regulations. This bill provides local boards of elections with necessary and reasonable flexibility for the canvass of absentee ballots, avoiding administrative complications that could disrupt the timely certification of election results.

As Maryland begins to implement same-day voter registration, the State Board of Elections (SBE) has proposed implementing a wireless networking system in the six counties (Baltimore City and Montgomery, Prince George’s, Howard, Baltimore, and Anne Arundel counties) to identify any absentee ballots that have been submitted by voters who also have submitted a provisional ballot in time to start the absentee ballot canvass at 10:00 a.m. on the Thursday following the election, as required by current law.

SB 362 eliminates the need for wireless networking because it allows the absentee ballot canvass to start up to 24 hours later than current law. This additional flexibility provides SBE and local boards of elections with more time for the necessary preparatory work before the canvass.

From the MACo Testimony:

Local boards of elections rely on the State Board of Elections (SBE) to verify voter information prior to canvassing absentee ballots. As Maryland begins to implement same-day voter registration, the process of registering a person to vote, making the required checks, and adding the information to the database will take a substantial amount of time. Because SBE may require additional time to verify pollbook information, granting local boards limited discretion in scheduling the absentee canvass is a sensible solution to serve and react to community needs.

. . . MACo requests the following amendment to address inconsistencies between state statute and SBE regulations:

On page 2 strike in their entirety lines 1 through 2 and substitute:
(B) (1) A LOCAL BOARD MAY COMMENCE THE CANVASS NO EARLIER THAN 10 A.M. ON THE THURSDAY FOLLOWING ELECTION DAY AND NO LATER THAN 10 A.M. ON THE FRIDAY FOLLOWING ELECTION DAY.

According to WAMU:

After issues with voting technology in parts of Maryland’s 7th Congressional District Tuesday, a bill is being introduced to the state legislature that would avoid double voting in future elections.

Glitches with the wireless network used to register voters caused some precincts to have long-lines and delays in reporting results, according to Senator Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City). The wireless network had to be shutdown during polling.

“By simply delaying the start of counting our votes by a few hours or a day or so, we can remove this risky problem,” [Senator Cheryl] Kagan said.

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2020 legislative session on MACo’s Legislative Tracking Database.

Useful Links

WAMU: Bill Introduced To Avoid “Iowa”-like Glitches In Maryland Primary

Maryland Matters: Officials to Investigate Problems With New Wireless Networks That Emerged During Tues. Primary

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