Mail-in voting “presents an opportunity to boost overall participation in our elections”
At 1:30 pm today, February 23, the Maryland House Ways and Means Committee will hold a public hearing on two bills that would strengthen the state’s mail-in voting process. The hearing will be livestreamed here.
“During the 2020 election cycle, Maryland experienced a larger-than-average demand for mail-in voting due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Common Cause Maryland Executive Director Joanne Antoine. “While election changes had to be quickly adopted, these changes presented a unique opportunity to test vote by mail. This experience proved two things – the convenience of vote by mail presents an opportunity to boost overall participation in our elections and the existing mail-in voting process needs improvement.”
Last fall, over 1 million Maryland voters used a secure drop box to return their voted ballots. HB 1047 would “make drop boxes a permanent staple in our elections,” Antoine said. Video surveillance or in-person security would be required, as well as chain-of-custody controls and other security provisions. The bill would also improve Maryland’s ballot-tracking system, and create a ballot “curing” process so that voters who make mistakes on their mail ballots can be notified and given the opportunity to fix them.
A second bill, HB 1048, would create a permanent mail-in ballot list, so voters who want to vote at home in all elections can do so — without having to apply separately for each mail ballot. This would particularly benefit elderly and disabled voters who prefer to vote by mail; they would no longer need to worry about missing application deadlines. It would also benefit county elections officials, by reducing the number of applications they have to process for each election. Under the bill, eligible voters choosing to opt into the permanent list will be provided with the opportunity to update their information or opt out of the list. The bill also outlines details on how to handle ballots that are undeliverable or not returned by the voter.
Everyone Votes Maryland, a nonpartisan coalition of 33 organizations, has prioritized both HB 1047 and HB 1048. Partners that will testify in support of the bills during today’s hearing include Common Cause Maryland, Disability Rights Maryland, Maryland NAACP, League of Women Voters Maryland, Maryland PIRG, and the National Vote at Home Institute.
Both bills are sponsored by Delegate Jheanelle Wilkins.
Read testimony supporting HB 1047 by Common Cause Maryland Executive Director Joanne Antoine here.
Read Antoine’s testimony supporting HB 1048 here.