Maryland’s next fix for unsigned ballots: a text message

December 27, 2022


When Marylanders opt for mail-in ballots, they will find a reminder in their ballot instructions to sign the oath on the back of the return envelope. But there are times when voters forget.

There’s a fix for that — a process called “curing” the ballot. The voter is contacted by mail with a request for their signature. After they sign it, they can either mail it back, drop it off at the local board of elections or scan it and return it by email.

In the last election, a regulation allowed a similar process using a text message program. Montgomery County’s Board of Elections opted to include that method for curing ballots.

Maryland State Sen. Cheryl Kagan said she plans to introduce a bill that would allow curing ballots through the text message method statewide. Asked by WTOP why legislation is needed if a regulation already allows for the process, she said that legislators “want to make it as easy as possible for people to have their votes counted.”

“A regulation is not nearly as strong as a law,” Kagan told WTOP. “If my bill were to pass,” she said, all 24 jurisdictions — Baltimore City and all of the counties in Maryland — “would be able to offer that option in the 2024 presidential election.”

Kagan is also planning to reintroduce a measure that would allow elections boards to begin processing mail-in ballots before Election Day. In the last legislative session, Kagan sponsored a bill to do that, and it was passed, but then vetoed by Gov. Larry Hogan. In his veto letter, Hogan stated that “maximizing” voter participation is “vital to a healthy democracy” but expressed concern over “basic security measures, such as signature verification.”

“We’re looking to pass laws to make sure that in all jurisdictions voters can have options as to how to make sure their ballots count, even if they forgot to sign the oath before returning it,” Kagan said.

Maryland’s next legislative session begins on Jan. 11 at noon with the swearing-in of newly elected assembly members.