Big elections changes could come for Maryland, and here’s what lawmakers are considering

February 28, 2023

The Herald-Mail

More than 70 election-related bills have been proposed this year during the Maryland General Assembly’s legislative session in Annapolis. Sen. Cheryl Kagan, D-Montgomery, alone has eight. Such a bounty of bills begs the question: What exactly are lawmakers looking to change?

“Maryland already has excellent elections,” said Kagan, sponsor of a bill called the Election Reform Act of 2023, S.B. 864, during a Feb. 24 hearing on one of her elections bills. “In no way, do I want to imply that we are having problems, that there’s anything about accuracy or diligence, or inclusion or anything. It’s just about small details that will allow us to make our election system even better.”

One legislative effort looks to put something that has already been occurring — the pre-processing of mail-in ballots by election workers — into law.

“Maryland is unique in the nation in that our laws and our regs don’t allow processing mail in ballots until after Election Day,” said Kagan, in an interview in her office after the bill hearing. In 2020, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan issued a proclamation during the COVID-19 pandemic to allow for canvassing prior to the November Election Day to handle the deluge of mail-in ballots.

Last year, no early canvassing was permitted during the primary, and the State Board of Elections had to file an emergency petition in circuit court to allow the ballots to be canvassed before the general election. The constitutionality of that request was being challenged in court until as recently as last week, when the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to hear the case.

Multiple reasons for pre-canvassing mail-in ballots, experts say

Election experts say the move to create a law to allow for pre-canvassing is a wise one.