(ANNAPOLIS, MD) In the 2022 election cycle, Maryland had 4.1 million eligible active voters. Recent elections have taught us that our democracy should never be taken for granted. For the 2023 legislative session, Sen. Cheryl Kagan has introduced eight election bills that will build on Maryland’s election administration and voting processes:
- Earlier Canvassing (SB379) Former Gov. Hogan’s unexpected and partisan veto of this emergency election bill caused significant delays in the certification of our Primary Election results– more than a month after Election Day. It ultimately required emergency regulations and judicial action. This bill is similar to last year’s version. It would mean an early start to the canvass (8 days before the start of Early Voting) and result in quicker election results.
- Transparency for Exploratory & Draft Committees (SB111) would ensure transparency by requiring that these election committees comply with campaign finance disclosure laws; limit the purpose for which funds can be expended; and establish parameters for dissolving these committees.
- Increasing Ballot Access (SB39) would extend the deadline for an unaffiliated voter to select a political party and vote a full ballot to 5pm the day before the start of Early Voting. This would encourage voter participation in our closed primaries while not placing an undue burden on our Local Boards of Elections.
- Last-minute Vacancies/“Fair Filing” (SB176) would ensure that public servants are ELECTED (by voters) rather than SELECTED. If a filed candidate dies or withdraws within 48 hours of the filing deadline, this deadline would be extended by seven days. This gives ample time for prospective candidates to decide to run and file their paperwork without unduly burdening our elections personnel.
- Recount Procedures (SB339) updates and clarifies that candidates may request either a full or partial recount and require our Local Boards of Elections to follow specific requirements for maintaining Internet-delivered ballots.
- Procurement Transparency (SB860) would require the Administrator of the State Board of Elections (SBE) to disclose all proposed contracts to the SBE Board– including draft Requests for Proposal (RFPs). The Board would debate and vote on contracts over $200,000 prior to their submission to the Board of Public Works.
- SBE Administrator Removal (SB863) would allow bipartisan, supermajority votes in order to remove the State Elections Administrator from his/her position. Maryland is unique in this lack of accountability.
- Election Reform Act of 2023 (SB864) addresses smaller elections issues including: consistency for “stray marks” on a ballot; protecting election employees from threats; replacing “faithless electors”; giving unaffiliated voters a voice in nonpartisan judicial elections; and several others.
Six of these bills will be heard before the Senate Education, Energy, and Environment (and Elections!) Committee on Thursday, February 16, 2023 starting at 1PM. As Vice Chair of “E-Quad,” Sen. Kagan has been working with advocates and national experts to craft these bills. Together, they will ensure that Maryland’s election processes are even more transparent, fair, and equitable.