Tech Entrepreneur From Baltimore is First Democrat to Enter Md. Governor’s Race

Baltimore nonprofit founder, author and former Obama administration technology adviser Alec Ross on Wednesday became the first in what is expected to be a crowded field of Democrats to enter Maryland’s 2018 gubernatorial race.

As reported by The Washington Post,

The 46-year-old political newcomer declared his candidacy through social media and his campaign website, saying he has the knowledge and experience to prepare the state’s economy for the future.

Courtesy Alec Ross gubernatorial campaign

At least seven other Democrats have said they are considering a 2018 run for governor, including Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker III, former Maryland attorney general Douglas F. Gansler, former NAACP executive director Benjamin Jealous, Baltimore County Executive Kevin B. Kamenetz, state Sen. Richard Madaleno (Montgomery), state Del. Maggie McIntosh (Baltimore) and attorney James Shea.

The winner of the Democratic primary is expected to face Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who has said he will run for reelection.

Ross, a Johns Hopkins fellow who served as a technology-policy adviser to Obama’s first presidential campaign and then as tech czar for the U.S. State Department, wrote “The Industries of the Future,” a 2016 nonfiction book that spent two months on the New York Times’ list of business bestsellers.

He graduated from Northwestern University in 1994 with a bachelor’s degree in history before joining Teach for America, which assigned him to a tough middle school in Baltimore. His work there was detailed in a three-part series in The Baltimore Sun.

In 2002, Ross founded a nonprofit group that focused on providing low-income and underserved communities with access to high-speed Internet. The organization has since become a multimillion-dollar corporation.

In his book, Ross predicted that five industries would dominate the global economy of the next several decades. They included robotics, cybersecurity, genomics, data analysis and digital currency.

Read the full article for more information.

2017 End of Session Wrap-up: Elections

The segments below provide a brief overview of MACo’s work in the area of elections policy in the 2017 General Assembly. 

Follow links for more coverage on Conduit Street and MACo’s Legislative Database

Voter Registration

Push Icons-DEFEATEDMACo opposed a constitutional amendment that would enable future legislation to create election day registration in Maryland. MACo raised concerns that the eventual implementation of election day registration could prove costly and difficult – potentially increasing voter wait times. House Bill 345/Senate Bill 423 was not passed by the General Assembly. Bill Information | MACo Coverage

Reporting Election Results

Push Icons-DEFEATEDMACo successfully stopped a bill 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. SB 960 did not advance out of its committee. Bill Information | MACo Coverage

Click here for a round up of the wrap-ups for all policy areas

The Last Day: How Did Counties Fare?

With several issues coming down to the final day of the 2017 legislative session, here’s a quick wrap-up of their final disposition. As is almost always the case, the final results are a mixed bag of successes and disappointments.

ENERGY SITING BILL PASSESHB 1350 included a final compromise to grant counties greater input into the certificate process to approve large-scale energy generation facilities.

ATTORNEYS FEE LEGISLATION DEFEATED ON SENATE FLOORSB 705, a bill that spent most of the last three weeks of the session on the Senate floor, was defeated after several more “special order” motions to delay its consideration. MACo had opposed the bill, citing its broad effects and costs from lawsuits well beyond the targeted “access to justice” sphere.

NEXT-GEN 911 COMMISSION AND FLEXIBILITY BILL DIES IN HOUSE COMMITTEESB 466, an amended-down version of legislation to advance Maryland 9-1-1 call centers toward “next generation” technology failed to receive a vote in its House Committee, and was defeated. MACo had supported the modest bill, but questions kept the Health and Government Operations Committee from taking the bill up on Monday.

ELECTION SCANNERS COST SPLIT FAILS – A late session effort (SB 406) to codify the 50/50 state/county cost split passed the House, but failed to progress through its final procedural steps and was defeated as time ran out.

STORMWATER COMPROMISE STALLS IN SENATEHB 656 was a bill MACo initially opposed, but committed to lengthy negotiations and developed into a compromise to fairly apply government stormwater charges on properties owned by other governments. The House approved the compromise, but the Senate was unable to gather the support from the dually assigned committees, and the bill died. The framework of the bill, however, may offer a roadmap for county/municipal agreements in the future, even without passage.

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