May 31, 2022
Written by Kevin Kinnally
Governor Larry Hogan vetoed 18 bills late Friday, including legislation authorizing local boards of elections to begin canvassing mail-in ballots before polls close on election day — which is essential for reporting timely results for state and local races. Governor Hogan also allowed 294 additional measures to take effect without his signature.
The veto will undoubtedly put more pressure on local boards of elections, which are already operating under strenuous circumstances because of delays with redistricting data, pandemic-driven supply shortages, difficulties recruiting election judges, and the spread of false information.
SB 163 – Election Law – Ballots – Processing and Reporting Procedures
MACo supported SB 163 with clarifying and technical amendments. This bill, sponsored by Senator Cheryl Kagan, would have provided local boards of elections with necessary and reasonable flexibility to canvass mail-in ballots, avoiding administrative complications that could disrupt the timely certification of election results.
Current law fails to recognize modern trends in voter preference, capabilities of new technologies, and realities of administering elections in our local communities. As more voters opt to cast mail-in ballots, local boards require flexibility to meet critical certification deadlines and provide meaningful results after the polls close on election day.
State law prohibits local boards from canvassing mail-in ballots until the Wednesday following an election. SB 163 would have allowed the canvassing of mail-in ballots up to eight days before election day.
The bill also addressed ballot curing, the process to allow voters to fix problems (such as missing signatures) with mail-in ballots to ensure that their votes count. The bill would have allowed voters to provide a missing signature in several ways — including in-person, mail, email, and text.
According to Governor Hogan’s veto letter:
Maximizing voter participation and providing citizens with accessible and convenient ways to cast their ballots is vital to a healthy democracy. … While this legislation allows a voter to provide a missing signature by one of several ways— including in person, mail, email, and text—it remains silent on basic security measures such as signature verification—with Maryland being one of only nine states that does not conduct signature verification — and does nothing to address ballot collecting.
The Maryland Association of Election Officials listed flexibility to canvass mail-in ballots as one of its top priorities for the 2022 legislative session. “This is a long overdue reform that several local boards are interested in having the option of doing. Since all voters will receive an application for a mail-in ballot, it is essential to be able to begin the process of opening and tabulating mail-in ballots before election day so that timely results are available after the conclusion of in-person voting election night.”
As previously reported on Conduit Street, the Court of Appeals of Maryland issued an order moving the 2022 primary election from June 28 to July 19.
Early voting for the delayed July 19 primary election will begin on July 7 and run through July 14. The deadline to register to vote in the primary is June 28, and the deadline for primary voters to request a mail-in ballot is July 12.