Both Chambers Move To Streamline County Procurement Requirement

Both chambers of the Maryland General Assembly have passed SB 632/HB 118 – Election Law – Persons Doing Public Business – Reporting by Governmental Entities, a bill that simplifies a campaign finance/procurement law mandate on counties. MACo testified in support of the bill with Kathleen Boucher of Montgomery County’s Intergovernmental Relations Office on February 7 in the House Ways and Means Committee and again on February 23 in the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee. Both committee passed their respective bills with technical amendments.

The bill repeals the requirement that state and local procurement officials notify the State Board of Elections if awardees of contracts worth $200,000 or more fail to file requisite campaign finance disclosures with that State Board. Instead, it requires those government entities to provide the Board with a list of all individuals and entities receiving contracts worth $200,000 or more who are required to file the subject disclosures.

From MACo testimony:

The Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2013 sought to reduce the risk of “pay to play” activities influencing government contracting – and by streamlining enforcement procedures, this bill helps to further those goals. This bill removes the “middle man” from an enforcement role it is unable to effectively accomplish. Recipients of government contracts worth $200,000 or more are currently required to file statements of political contributions with the State Board. The provision of existing law addressed in this bill holds state and local procurement officers responsible for (1) requiring that the applicable contract awardees certify that they have made their requisite disclosure filings with the State Board, and (2) notifying the State Board if those awardees actually fail to make the requisite filings.

Regarding that latter requirement, procurement officers do not actually have the means to verify whether their contractors have filed the requisite disclosures with the State Board – the State Board has that information. Instead, this bill requires state and local government entities to file a list of applicable contract awardees with the State Board, returning enforcement obligations to the Board which is supposed to receive the campaign finance disclosures in the first place.

 

House Committee Votes Down Gov. Hogan’s Redistricting Bill

The House Rules and Executive Nominations Committee (which has jurisdiction over constitutional amendments, regardless of the subject matter) today killed a flagship item on Governor Larry Hogan’s legislative agenda, turning down a measure to change the way legislative districts are drawn.

HB 385 proposes a constitutional amendment that, if approved by voters in the next general election, requires the appointment of a General Assembly and Congressional Legislative Redistricting and Apportionment Commission. The commission must divide the State into consecutively numbered legislative districts that conform to existing constitutional provisions and create as many congressional districts as there are representatives in Congress apportioned to Maryland.

The cross-file to the bill, SB 252, was heard by the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee on March 3, 2017.

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 legislative session here.

Same-Day Voter Registration May Be In Play

The Senate has passed SB 423, a constitutional amendment that would enable future legislation to create election day registration in Maryland.

MACo had raised concerns that the eventual implementation of election day registration could prove costly and difficult – potentially increasing voter wait times. While SB 423 does not actually set of the process, it represents a necessary first step toward that end, as the state constitution currently specifies details of the voter registration process. If passed by the General Assembly, the constitutional amendment would be placed on the ballot for statewide voter approval in 2018. See MACo’s testimony on SB 423.

The House Ways and Means Committee has not yet acted on the crossfiled bill, HB 345.

Reporting Early Voting by Precinct Costly, Risks Voter Privacy

MACo Policy Associate, Kevin Kinnally, recently testified in opposition to legislation (SB 960) that would mandate election results provided by local boards of elections, acting in their capacity as boards of canvassers, and the State Board of Elections must include results by precinct for early and absentee voting. Currently, local boards of elections tabulate Election Day results by precinct but votes cast during early voting or by absentee ballot are not separated out by precinct when tabulated. Counties are concerned this legislation places a substantial administrative and cost burden onto local Boards of Elections, whose operatoins are supported by county funding. Without state resources to offset these potentially large costs, the bill represents an unfunded mandate on local governments.

MACo’s testimony states,

Because early voting polling places are open to voters of several precincts, and absentee ballots are mailed in, by-precinct sorting and tabulation would result in an increased need for election staff time and resources.

As a rule, MACo resists state policies that result in costly or burdensome local implementation. This bill would result in substantial costs to local Boards of Elections, which are charged with providing ballots, election judges, and administrative staff at each voting precinct. Local Boards of Elections indicate significant costs associated with generating new types of ballots and hiring additional election judges.

Under state law, counties have no choice but to fund these costs – competing for limited local funds against education, public safety, roadway maintenance, and other essential public services.

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 legislative session here.

MACo Wary of Same Day Voter Registration

MACo Policy Associate, Kevin Kinnally, provided testimony in opposition to Senate Bill 423, “Elective Franchise – Registration and Voting at Polling Place,” before the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee on February 9, 2017.

This bill would empower the General Assembly to pass a law authorizing an individual to register and vote at a polling place on Election Day. Counties are concerned this legislation places a substantial administrative and cost burden onto local Boards of Elections, whose operations are supported by county funding. Without state resources to offset these potentially large costs, the bill represents an unfunded mandate on local governments.

From MACo testimony:

Same-day voter registration, also known as Election Day registration, is meant to extend voting franchise as widely as possible to eligible voters. MACo does not raise policy objections with these goals – county concerns are merely practical and cost-driven.

Under state law, counties have no choice but to fund these costs – competing for limited local funds against education, public safety, roadway maintenance, and other essential public services.

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 legislative session here.

MACo Urges Streamlining of Campaign Finance Requirement

MACo Associate Director, Barbara Zektick, provided testimony in support of House Bill 118, “Election Law – Persons Doing Public Business – Reporting by Governmental Entities,”  before the House Ways and Means Committee on February 7, 2017.

The bill simplifies a campaign finance law mandate, by repealing the requirement that procurement officials notify the State Board of Elections if awardees of contracts worth $200,000 or more fail to file requisite campaign finance disclosures with that State Board. Instead, it requires those government entities to provide the Board with a list of all individuals and entities receiving contracts worth $200,000 or more who are required to file the subject disclosures.

From MACo testimony:

By streamlining these enforcement obligations, this bill removes the “middle man” and unnecessary bureaucracy, and better allows the appropriate government entities to enforce provisions protecting against “pay to play” activities.

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 legislative session here.

State Board of Elections Reports on 2016 General Election

Linda Lamone, State Administrator of the State Board of Elections briefed the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee Thursday on the operation of the 2016 General Election.  She began with the numbers:

  • 2.8M voters out of 3.9M eligible (72%) – down from usual 80% in Presidential
  • Early voting increased 31%
  • Absentee ballots at 6% of total, steady compared to previous years
  • 7,800 registrations and 8,000 address changes during early voting

Official Turnout Results

Campaign 2016 Early Voting MarylandShe then briefly discussed some issues that arose on election day.  It was reported that 3% of precincts experienced unusually long lines, which the State Board is investigating.  In this regard, she stated that the ratio of voting machines (image scanners) to registered voter is 1:3000, contrary to some reports.  Ms. Lamone also mentioned an issue with absentee ballots being folded resulting in some scanning errors (41 ballots in Baltimore County, for example).  These were re-scanned and counted appropriately.  There were also a few instances of scanners grabbing two pages of a ballot together.

Following Ms. Lamone’s testimony, information was shared by Larry Moore, Founder and CEO of Clear Ballot Group, which conducted a full audit of the election results.

“This is the first time a statewide, 100% audit has ever been done in this country.”  Larry Moore, Clear Ballot Group

Mr. Moore went into some detail about the process of auditing the 2016 General Election.  The bottom line, however, was that the audit resulted in a .062% discrepancy between the State’s count and Clear Ballot’s.  This is far below the threshold ratio of .5%, which would trigger concern.

Post Election Audit Reports by County

Gov. Hogan: Redistricting Commission Will Continue Its Work

Last Monday, Governor Larry Hogan amended an executive order to extend the work of the bi-partisan Maryland Redistricting Reform Commission until Nov. 8, 2017. The commission was appointed in August 2015 and issued its final report that November, before the 2016 General Assembly convened.

From The Frederick News-Post,

Walter Olson served as co-chairman for the commission’s first year of work. Olson said he’s not sure whether Hogan will change membership of the board for the new year, but several commission members wanted to continue their work at a meeting last week.

“We’ve got more to say,” Olson said.

With an additional year of work, the commission can examine additional ideas for more representative congressional districts, Olson said. They would also likely hold public hearings in Montgomery County, which some lawmakers in Annapolis said was an egregious oversight in the commission’s first year of work, he said.

Olson chalked up the lack of an earlier meeting in Montgomery County to “ill fortune and lack of time.”

During last year’s session, half a dozen bills aimed at reforming the redistricting process, including one that Hogan proposed, failed.

Maryland’s congressional lines are drawn by the state legislature, as a regular statute, subject to gubernatorial veto. The Governor may also propose a congressional plan for the state legislature to consider.

A federal lawsuit challenging the state’s current redistricting map, which was implemented in 2012, is pending in Federal Court.

Seventy-five percent of Maryland residents support shifting redistricting from elected officials to an independent commission, according to a February Goucher Poll.

Read the full article for more information.

Former Anne Arundel GOP Chair Announces Council Candidacy

Anne Arundel County Council’s 3rd district will get its first contender to replace Councilman Derek Fink, a term-limited Republican who has represented the district since 2010. Nathan E. Volke, the former chairman of the county’s Republican Central Committee, plans to announce his candidacy at an event on Thursday.

From The Capital Gazette,

Volke, who has been a member of the Republican central committee since 2010, recently stepped down as its chair after three years in the post. The party elected Wayne Smith to replace him on Nov. 2.

As chairman of the local GOP, he helped raise money to support Republican candidates, ensured the party had a presence at community events and mobilized volunteers to knock on doors and campaign for Republicans at the polls.

“This is the next step for me as I try to keep improving the community,” he said of his decision to run for council. “Now, I want to be able to help everybody; to be able to represent the whole community.”

Volke’s not the first to announce his plans for 2018. In District 7, where County Councilman Jerry Walker, R-Crofton, is term-limited, two candidates — Jonathan Boniface and Michelle Corkadel, both Republicans — have already said they plan to run to replace him.

Read the full article for more information.

Major Changes Coming to Wicomico School Board

Wicomico County residents overwhelmingly supported an all-elected school board and voted in favor of nine amendments to the county charter in Tuesday’s election. The Board of Education referendum offered three options for selecting members, including one that would have retained the current method in which all seven members are appointed by the governor.

According to Delmarvanow,

Option 2 on the ballot was the winner with 51 percent of the vote. The option allows for five members elected by voters within the voters’ council district and two elected at-large members.

Voters cast 25.2 percent of the votes for Option 1, which would have retained all seven Board of Education members appointed by the governor.

Option 3, which would have created a hybrid board of five elected and two appointed members, received 24.1 percent of the vote.

The ballot also included nine local questions for changes to the county charter that will affect how vacancies are filled, reorganizations of county departments, the council’s right to hire its own attorney and the budget process.

All nine amendments were approved by 63 percent to 77 percent of county voters.

The charter amendments define what constitutes a departmental reorganization, clarifies that the council’s attorney is not necessarily the county attorney and puts limits on how long someone may serve as an acting department head.

The amendments also give the council more say in the county’s personnel system and in the budget process.

Read the full article for more information.