The segments below provide a brief overview of MACo’s work in the area of elections policy in the 2021 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 the Maryland General Assembly conducted a legislative session unlike any other due to the enduring COVID-19 pandemic. The unique circumstances surrounding the 442nd legislative session, including necessary health and safety measures, posed a challenge for lawmakers and advocates alike. Despite the unusual circumstances, MACo’s advocacy still led to more positive outcomes for its members.
For more information on Maryland’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic visit MACo’s COVID-19 resource page.
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 did not advance after its public hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee.
MACo opposed legislation to mandate that local boards of elections increase the number of early voting centers for each statewide election. This bill will place 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 represents an unfunded mandate on local governments. Election Law – Early Voting Centers – Number Required passed the General Assembly and awaits the Governor’s signature.
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. This 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 Marland regarding equal voting opportunities for individuals with disabilities is resolved. Election Law – Voting Systems – Accessibility for Voters With Disabilities did not move after its public hearings in the House and Senate.
MACo opposed legislation that would have mandated the method by which county commissioners are elected to represent specified districts. Counties are concerned with this one-size-fits-all approach that would infringe on local autonomy and flexibility in local governance. Local decision-makers are elected to serve public needs, and their actions are subject to broad citizen and stakeholder input, and they are directly accountable to voters. This law would diminish local accountability and local voter input. Local Government – County Commissioner Elections – District Voting passed the House but did not advance from the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee.
MACo supported legislation to update election laws with an emphasis on fairness, transparency, and accountability. The bill would have required the State Board of Elections (SBE) to take necessary and appropriate steps to provide transparency and accountability for transactions that oblige county funds, and to afford ample opportunity for input from local governments and Maryland voters. The bill also sought to clarify and cofify the 20-year precedent that governs state and local election funding, in order to provide stability and predictability for State and local budgets. State Board of Elections – Membership, Contract Management, Ballot Drop Boxes, and Voting System Financing did not advance.
MACo supported legislation to expand the office for which a county may establish a system of public campaign financing to candidates for local office. Currently, counties can already authorize public campaign financing for those seeking legislative and executive branch offices. This bill would have enabled county government to offer public campaign financing to candidates seeking to serve as state’s attorney, sheriff, register of wills, judge of the circuit court, clerk of the circuit court, just of the orphans’ court, or an elected member of the county board of education. Local Public Campaign Financing – Expansion to Additional Offices did not advance.
MACo supported legislation with amendments that would have changed the structure and administration of Maryland elections by boosting transparency for local Boards of elections, providing needed flexibility for the canvass of ballots, and requiring that election results be reported by precinct. Counites proposed an amendment to ensure state resources can be provided to support the substantial cots of detailed reporting by voting precinct. Election Reform Act of 2021 did not advance in the Senate following its public hearing.
For more information on election bills MACo reviewed this Session, click here.