House Advances Bill to Allow Same Day Voter Registration

The Maryland House of Delegates today gave final approval to House Bill 532, Elective Franchise – Registration and Voting at Precinct Polling Place. The final vote was 91-47.

The bill proposes amending the Maryland Constitution to authorize the General Assembly to allow a qualified individual to register and vote at a precinct polling place on Election Day. As is the case with all proposed amendments to the Maryland Constitution, the measure must be approved by a two-thirds vote of each chamber of the Maryland General Assembly. If the law is passed, the Constitutional Amendment would need to be approved by voters in the 2018 Gubernatorial Election.

Prior to passing the bill, the House of Delegates rejected an amendment proposed by Delegate Susan McComas that would have required anyone who registers to vote on Election Day provide identification and sign a sworn affidavit attesting to their identity.

The bill’s cross-file, Senate Bill 594, was heard by the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee on February 15 and no further action has been taken on the bill since the hearing.

MACo did not take a position on HB 532/SB 594.

Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.

County Officials Seeking State Offices

With the filing deadline behind us, Conduit Street shares a survey of county elected officials, from around the state, who have thrown their hat into the ring for state-level offices.

State Senate (sorted by District number)

Frederick County Council member Billy Shreve (R) has filed to run for State Senate in District 3, where incumbent Democrat Ron Young is running for re-election.

Howard County Council member Mary Kay Sigaty (D) has filed to run for State Senate in District 12, where incumbent Senator Ed Kasmeyer is retiring. Current Delegate Clarence Lam has also filed to run for the seat in the Democratic primary.

Prince George’s County Council Member Obie Patterson (D), a former State Delegate, has filed for Senate District 26. Incumbent Senator C. Anthony Muse (D) has filed to run for County Executive.

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Click here to see the complete list of candidates for all State Senate seats.

State Delegate (sorted by District number)

Former Howard County Council Member Courtney Watson (D) has filed for Delegate District 9B, where incumbent Bob Flanagan (R) is seeking re-election.

Howard County Council Member Jen Terrasa (D) has filed for Delegate District 13, where one of three incumbents Frank Turner (D) has announced his retirement.

Prince George’s County Council Member Mary Lehman (D) has filed for Delegate in District 21, where one of three incumbents Barbara Frush (D) has announced her retirement.

Prince George’s County Council Member Andrea Harrison (D) has filed for Delegate in District 24, where one of three incumbents Carolyn J.B. Howard is not seeking re-election.

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Charles County Commissioner Debra Davis (D) has filed to run for Delegate in District 28, where one of the three incumbents, Sally Jameson, has indicated she will not file for re-election.

Anne Arundel County Council Member Jerry Walker (R) has filed to run in District 33, where all three incumbent Delegates have filed for re-election.

Harford County Council member James “Cap’n Jim” McMahan has filed to run in District 34, where incumbent Susan McComas has filed for re-election.

Former Baltimore City Council Member Carl Stokes has filed to run for Delegate in District 43, where incumbent Mary Washington is running for State Senate.

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Click here to see the full list of candidates filed for Delegate races statewide.

Some Images Courtesy of Maryland Manual On-Line

Counties Cannot Completely Shoulder New Election Audits

MACo Associate Director Barbara Zektick testified in opposition to House Bill 767, “Election Law – Securing Elections From Foreign Interference”, before the House Ways and Means Committee on February 27, 2018.

This bill would require local Boards of Election to absorb a significant tactical and fiscal burden by requiring additional auditing of random samples of ballots and mandating that election infrastructure and equipment be updated at least once every ten years. These changes would require a significant addition in the amount of staff to conduct a manual audit of a certain number of ballots within 10 days of an election. This is in addition to election audits already in place. In this legislation, counties would be forced to shoulder a large majority of the cumbersome and costly changes.

From MACo Testimony:

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 Election. Incorporating a new manual count process of this magnitude would require significant staff overtime or additional staff to perform the audit within the 10-day timeframe to certify an election. Furthermore, local Boards of Election indicate that upgrading or replacing the State’s election infrastructure would cost taxpayers millions of dollars, even without any documented concerns about system vulnerability.

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.

This bill would place a costly mandate on county governments to carry out new state policy.”

For more updates, follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2018 legislative session here.

Public Campaign Financing Option Gives Counties Flexibility

MACo Policy Associate Kevin Kinnally submitted written testimony in support of House Bill 227 to the House Ways and Means Committee on February 6, 2018. This bill authorizes the county to establish a system of public financing of campaigns for elected offices in the General Assembly.

This gives county and local governments increased flexibility in handling the financing of local campaigns that are unique to each jurisdiction.

From MACo Testimony:

This legislation properly leaves the decision for establishing a system of public campaign financing in the hands of the local governments, who are best situated to determine whether such a policy is in their best interest.

HB 227 ensures local governments have flexibility in enacting local policies designed to serve and react to community needs.”

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2018 legislative session here.


Carroll Seeking Paid Election Judges

Carroll County is looking to fill ninety paid election judge positions available for the upcoming primary election Tuesday, June 26, and general election Tuesday, Nov. 6.

According to the Carroll County Times,

“We’re in desperate need of judges,” said Katherine Berry, Carroll County Board of Elections’ election director. “They are critical to the success of our elections because they are in charge of the polling places. Anybody registered to vote in the state of Maryland is eligible.”

Berry said prospective judges must attend a one- to three-hour training session, which will be scheduled between April and June. All judges will be paid $30. Chief judges will be paid $225, check-in judges and voting judges will be paid $175, and provisional judges will be paid $185. Early voting compensation amounts include $200 per day for chief judges, $150 per day for check-in judges and voting judges, and $165 per day for provisional judges.

Under Maryland law, you can serve as an election judge if you are:

  • Age 16 or older
  • Are a registered voter in Maryland;
  • Physically and mentally able to work at least a 15-hour day;
  • Willing to work outside your home precinct;
  • Able to sit and/or stand for an extended period; and
  • Can speak, read, and write English.

You cannot be an election judge and a:

  • Candidate or currently hold a public or political office, including State and county political party central committees, or
  • Chairman, campaign manager or treasurer for a political or candidate committee

Those interested in becoming an election judge should complete an online survey at Candidates without Internet capabilities should call 410-386-2959.

Read the full article for more information.

Conduit Street Podcast, Episode #9 – The General Assembly Is in Session!

The Maryland General Assembly is now in session. The 438th session convened in Annapolis onWednesday. Notwithstanding the pageantry, ceremony, pomp, and circumstance, lawmakers got off to a fast start. On the latest episode of the Conduit Street Podcast, Kevin Kinnally and Michael Sanderson recap the week in Annapolis and discuss some of the key issues likely to be addressed between now and sine die.

MACo has made the podcast available through both iTunes and Google Play Music by searching Conduit Street Podcast. You can also listen on our Conduit Street blog with a recap and link to the podcast.

Listen here:

If you are having trouble using this media player, listen on our website.

Counties Receive Legal Issues Update at 2017 Winter #MACoCon

County officials received updates on pending state and federal legal issues on December 6 at the 2017 MACo Winter Conference. The panel was called “From the Bench: A Federal and State Legal Update” and was moderated by Maryland Delegate William Folden.

National Association of Counties (NACo) Associate Legislative Director Jack Peterson discussed several cases before the United States Supreme Court that would address: (1) whether banning political apparel at polling places violates the first amendment ; (2) how and when states can remove individuals from their voter rolls; (3) whether comments made at a public meeting must relate to the topic under consideration; and (4) whether states and local governments can collect sales tax from online retailers regardless of whether they have a physical presence within their jurisdiction.

From left to right: Jack Peterson, Lisa Oschenhirt, Timothy Baker

Peterson discussed several regulatory issues, including the recent definitional change to the federal “Waters of the United States” rule. Peterson noted that the issue would likely remain a top legislative priority for NACo. Peterson also discussed NACo’s efforts to improve the “integrated planning” option under the Clean Water Act that in theory simplifies how local governments can meet federal and state mandates for water quality.

Finally, Peterson discussed several pending federal legislative issues, including extension of the current federal budget so that the government does not run out of money and current tax reform efforts. On tax reform, key local issues included losing the deduction for local income taxes and some property taxes and the removal of the ability to refinance local municipal bonds. Peterson stated that tax reform would probably be done by the end of the year.

AquaLaw Attorney Oschenhirt discussed the permitting process and current litigation for Maryland counties subject to a Phase I or Phase II Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit. Oschenhirt stated that Phase I controversies included: (1) whether the  permit applied across the entire county or just to those areas of a county that have stormwater systems; (2) whether the proposed permits go beyond the “maximum extent practicable” standard; and (3) whether nutrient credit trading will be included or not.

Delegate William Folden

Oschenhirt also noted that MACo, the Maryland Municipal League, and the Maryland Municipal Stormwater Association submitted joint comments on the new Phase II MS4 permit proposed by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE). The comments raised concerns over who should be included in the permit, the geographic scope of the permit, the 20% treatment retrofit burden, and the lack of nutrient trading authority.

Oschenhirt also touched on the pending regulations for nutrient trading, staffing and program funding issues within the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load Mid-Point Assessment, tax sales, and state legislation regarding non-flushable wipes.

Maryland State Archivist and Commissioner of Land Patents Timothy Baker highlighted an optional program that is being set up by the Maryland State Archives to encourage county governments to appoint a records officer. The records officer would liaison with State Archives regarding document retention policies and infrastructure.

Public Safety, Voter Registration Among ACLU of Maryland 2018 Priorities





Representatives from MACo and the ACLU of Maryland meet on November 27, 2017, to discuss their respective legislative initiatives for the 2018 Session. A 2018 Session Priorities Handout provided by ACLU Maryland identified six key issues that the organization will focus on:

  1. Election Day Registration (allow voters to register and vote on the same day)
  2. Pre-Trial Justice (preserve existing judicial rules that disfavors cash bail, prohibits unaffordable bail requirements, and prevents bail from being used for public safety)
  3. Taking the Politics Out of Parole (remove the Governor’s role in the parole determination process)
  4. Solitary Confinement (“Restrictive Housing”) Reform (reform the usage and duration of administrative or disciplinary segregation of inmates and mentally ill detainees)
  5. Criminal Justice Reporting (create a task force, including local government representation, that would standardize how race and ethnicity is reported in public safety situations)
  6. Public Funding of Private and Religious Schools (restrict the use of public monies for funding private schools)

The sheet listed a number of secondary issues, such as access to justice and transparency, where the ACLU of Maryland will be active during the 2018 Session. The ACLU of Maryland will certainly take a position on MACo’s Public Information Act (PIA) reform initiative. The group opposed MACo’s PIA body camera initiative in 2016 and 2017 but has worked with MACo on other issues.

ACLU Maryland 2018 Session Priorities Handout

ACLU of Maryland Website

Josh Kurtz Op-ed: Many Key Maryland Races Wide Open

In an op-ed published by Maryland Matters (2017-11-07), Josh Kurtz ruminated on the unusually open nature of many of Maryland’s state and local elections next year. Kurtz highlighted a number of races that at the moment appear very difficult to predict. Here is just a partial list of contested positions discussed in the op-ed:

A wide-open, eight-candidate race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, with no obvious frontrunner – and potential paths to victory for just about everybody. …

How vulnerable is Gov. Larry Hogan (R), really? There will be plenty of external forces at work, and chances are good that the general election is going to be close. …

Look around the state: Who’s going to be the next Baltimore County executive? There are closely-fought primaries in both parties, and the general election is likely to be, too. …

Who’s going to be the next Prince George’s County executive? Two strong women are competing against each other for the job – and a woman has never held that office before.

Who’s going to be the next Montgomery County executive? Even at this late date, the field is still growing. …

Look how much turnover is possible in the 47-member state Senate: A dozen seats or more are at play.

Kurtz proposed several reasons for the large amount of electoral uncertainty: (1) a generational change in voters and candidates; (2) a weakening of the long-entrenched Democratic party leadership; (3) the increasing role of women and minority candidates; and (4) the political dynamic of President Donald Trump.


After 2016 Election Hacks, Some States Return To Paper Ballots

Going back to paper ballots may seem retrograde. But in the wake of widespread uncertainties during the 2016 election, some states are ditching voting machines and reverting to paper ballots.

According to Governing,

Citing security concerns, the Virginia Board of Elections announced last Friday that it will stop using electronic voting machines in the state. The board’s action is the latest sign that state and local election agencies are trying to address growing concerns that the nation’s election infrastructure is vulnerable to hacking.

During the 2016 presidential election, Russia targeted voting systems in 21 states, according to U.S. officials. Though U.S. security officials say the cyberbreach did not impact vote-counting, they have warned of future, and more intrusive, attacks.

Some states — including Virginia and Georgia, which recently announced a pilot program to use paper ballots — hope eliminating the use of electronic ballots will reduce the threat of cyberattacks.

The move to paperless ballots began after the Florida “hanging chad” fiasco in the 2000 presidential election. Many state and local governments bought electronic voting machines in the mid-2000s after Congress allocated nearly $3 billion to update voting equipment. Electronic voting machines were touted as a way to prevent the potential for miscounting incomplete paper ballots from a punch-card machine. But some computer experts now say election systems should include paper ballots to verify the accuracy of vote tallies.

Virginia is also one of two states — the other is Iowa — that passed requirements this year for post-election audits to compare paper ballots with electronic vote tallies. A handful of other states considered similar bills. But audits are only effective if election officials have a paper trail to verify against the computer counts.

Five states — Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, New Jersey and South Carolina — still use only electronic machines. Another handful of states have a mix of electronic and paper-based machines, depending on the local jurisdiction.

The 2016 election marked the return of paper ballots in Maryland. Maryland used paper ballots until 2004, when it switched over to touch-screen voting machines. In 2007, legislation was passed requiring the state election system to produce a voter-verifiable paper record for each vote cast in an election. A lack of funding delayed the reintroduction of paper ballot voting systems until last year.

Read the full article for more information.