The segments below provide a brief overview of MACo’s work in the area of elections policy in the 2020 General Assembly.
Counties administer and fund elections at the local level, overseeing polling places and coordinating poll workers every two years. MACo routinely advocates against state policies that result in costly or burdensome implementation for local election officials.
This year, for the first time in since the Civil War, the General Assembly closed session early on March 18, due to precautionary social distancing measures taken to curb the spread of COVID-19. Consequently, many bills did not have hearings or did not move forward due to time constraints to meet the new deadline. For more information on Maryland’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic visit MACo’s COVID-19 Resource Page.
Follow links for more coverage on Conduit Street and MACo’s Legislative Tracking Database.
MACo opposed legislation to mandate that local boards of elections establish voting precincts in any continuing care retirement community that requests a separate polling place for its residents. The bill would have placed a substantial administrative and cost burden onto local boards of elections, whose functions are supported by county funding. Without state resources to offset these potentially large costs, the bill represented an unfunded mandate on local governments. Election Law – Polling Places at Continuing Care Retirement Communities received an unfavorable report by the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs and did not receive a vote in the House Ways and Means Committee.
MACo opposed legislation that would have required each voter to use a ballot marking device that is also accessible to voters with disabilities. MACo did not raise policy objections with this well-intentioned legislation, county concerns were merely practical and cost-driven. The bill would have placed a very substantial administrative and cost burden onto local Boards of Elections, whose functions are supported by county funding. Additionally, MACo argued that legislation should be deferred until litigation pending before the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland regarding equal voting opportunities for individuals with disabilities is resolved. Election Law – Voting Systems – Accessibility for Voters With Disabilities did not move out of committee following the hearings in the House and Senate.
MACo opposed legislation that would have required local Boards of Elections to conduct a risk-limiting audit following each statewide election. Although counties did not oppose the policy of employing risk-limiting audits to verify election results, without state resources to offset these potentially large costs, the bill represented an unfunded mandate on local governments. Election Law – Postelection Tabulation Audits – Risk-Limiting Audits did not advance out of the House Ways and Means Committee following its public hearing.
MACo opposed legislation that would have granted the state administrator of elections “discipline authority” over local Boards of Elections and required that an appointment of a local election director by a local Board of Elections, to manage the operations and supervise the staff of the local board, be made in consultation with the state administrator. Counties opposed the one-size-fits-all approach of the bill, which was onerous and unnecessary. Election Administration – Duties of State Administrator, Local Boards of Elections, and Election Directors and Cybersecurity Requirements did not advance out of the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee.
MACo supported with amendments legislation that would have allowed local boards of election more time before beginning absentee ballot canvassing, providing necessary and reasonable flexibility to verify voter information for same-day voter registrations. Counties proposed an amendment to align the State statute and State Board of Elections regulations. Election Law – Absentee Ballots – Timing of Canvass was on track to pass both chambers but stalled after a favorable second reading with amendments in the House due to a canceled hearing before the end of session.
MACo supported legislation to expand the offices for which a county may establish a system of public campaign financing to candidates for local boards of education. Counties can already authorize public campaign financing for those seeking elective offices in the executive and legislative branches of county government. This bill would have enabled county governments to offer public campaign financing to candidates seeking to serve as an elected member of the county board of education. Election Law – Local Public Campaign Financing – Boards of Education passed the Senate but did not advance out of the House Ways and Means Committee.