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.

Montgomery Voters Approve Term Limits Referendum

Voters in Montgomery County Tuesday decided on three ballot questions, including a term limits referendum, which was approved 262,512 or 68.9 percent to 118,532 votes or 31.1 percent. The vote means that the county executive and County Council members will be limited to serving three consecutive terms. In Montgomery County, the terms last for four years; the current term ends in 2018.

The result was a significant reversal from the last time the issue was put to voters: In 2004 it lost by 4 percentage points, while in 2000 it was defeated by 8 percentage points.

The result will likely have significant effects on the 2018 election in Montgomery County, keeping four current members of the Council — Marc Elrich (At Large), Nancy Floreen (At Large), George Leventhal (At Large), and Roger Berliner (District 1) — from running for re-election, should they have chosen to do so. (Leventhal had said he would not run again.) There are nine members on the County Council. County Executive Ike Leggett has said he does not plan to run for a fourth term.

In response to the petition, the County Council placed a charter amendment on the ballot, Question C, that clarifies what constitutes a full term for County Council and county executive. As written, Question B treats a partial term like a full term. Question C was approved by 79 percent, meaning a partial term could only count as a full term if a person served for at least half the time.

Question A also won with 335,655 votes in favor, or 89.9 percent compared with 37,616 votes against, or 10.1 percent . The measure would allow the County Council to fill a vacancy in the office of the county executive by special election.

An election isn’t required, but the change to the charter would allow an election. Currently, a vacancy would be filled by a majority vote of the council. If members can’t reach a majority, the central committee of the majority party on the council would vote to fill the vacancy.

All results are current as of 7:00 am on Thursday, November 10, 2016. For updated information, visit the State Board of Elections.

Howard Says “Yes” to Campaign Finance Reform

Howard County voters yesterday approved a local ballot measure that amends the county charter so that future candidates for county executive and council would have the option of financing their campaigns publicly through a “Citizens’ Election Fund System.” According to unofficial results released by the State Board of Elections, the measure passed with 52.1% of the votes.

The specifics of how such a campaign finance system would work haven’t yet been established. Details are expected to be supplied later with the input of a citizens advisory board. But it’s likely to operate similarly to the system adopted in neighboring Montgomery County two years ago — candidates have small private donations of no more than $500 matched by public dollars capped at a maximum amount. In return, they must swear off large donations.

All results are current as of 5:00 pm on Wednesday, November 9, 2016. For updated information, visit the State Board of Elections.

Read previous Conduit Street Coverage for more information.

New But Familiar Faces in MD Congressional Delegation

Maryland voters have selected two new members of the state’s congressional delegation – electing former Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown in District 4, and State Senator Jamie Raskin in District 8. Both district seats were vacated when the incumbents Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards pursued the US Senate seat being vacated by Barbara Mikulski, with Van Hollen winning the primary and general election for that seat.

The remaining six members of the state delegation to the House of Representatives were re-elected. Senator Ben Cardin was not up for election this year.

From coverage in the Washington Post:

brownBrown, 54, beat out a crowded Democratic primary field that included Peña-Melnyk and former Prince George’s state’s attorney Glenn F. Ivey, immediately becoming the overwhelming favorite to succeed Edwards in Congress. During the campaign, Brown shed his political handlers and invested $400,000 of his own money to tell voters a more personal story about his role as a father and husband.

“Sometimes in life you’re going to get knocked down,” Brown said after casting his ballot Tuesday morning. “And if you believe in what you are doing, you pick yourself up, your brush yourself off and you and you stay in the fight.”

Raskin, 53, a Takoma Park law professor, enjoyed the backing of virtually every major Democratic interest group in the state. He survived a nine-way primary that featured the heaviest self-funded congressional candidate ever, Potomac wine magnate David Trone. Trone spent $13.4 million of his own money to finish second, slightly ahead of former Marriott executive and news anchor Kathleen Matthews.raskin

In both the primary and the general election campaigns, Raskin promised to pursue the kind of liberal agenda he set in Annapolis, including prison reform, a ban on assault weapons and an increased minimum wage.

“It is not my job to be in the political center; it is my job to be in the moral center,” Raskin told supporters Tuesday night. “When they call me a progressive, I say darn right, because at the heart of that word is progress, and if we aren’t making progress, what are we doing in politics?”

The Baltimore Sun covered the Van Hollen Senate win:

In a victory speech, Van Hollen laid out priorities, including improving education, building the economy and getting big money out of politics.van-hollen

Marylanders need to unite “behind the common purpose of trying to make sure every Marylander is treated with dignity and treated with respect and has an opportunity to have a fair shake in America,” he told supporters at an election night party in Silver Spring. “That’s what brings this extended family together as we move forward.”

Van Hollen, who served 12 years in the General Assembly before he was elected to the House of Representatives in 2002, will enter the Senate at a particularly precarious moment in U.S. politics, following a divisive presidential election that exposed deep rifts within both major political parties.

Meffley, Gregory Win Seats on Cecil County Council

Bob Meffley
Bob Meffley. Photo courtesy of the Cecil Whig

In Cecil County, the State Board of Elections reports the following unofficial results for the County Council. According to the results, Republicans Bob Meffey and Jackie Gregory won their unchallenged races Tuesday and will join Joyce Bowlsbey, Dan Schneckenburger, and George Patchell on the County Council.

In District 1, Bob Meffley earned 98.2% of the vote to win the seat vacated by County Executive-elect Bob McCarthy.

jackie gregory
Jackie Gregory.
Photo courtesy of Jackie Gregory for County Council.

In District 5, Jackie Gregory earned 98.2% of the vote to win the seat vacated by current County Council President Robert Hodge, who did not seek another term in office.

All percentage results are current as of November 9 at 7am, but not necessarily final.  For updated information, visit the State Board of Elections.