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Category: Maryland (page 1 of 3)

In Maryland, Still Waters Run Deep

The year 2020, in its abundant mercy and generosity, will soon deliver to the American people a welcome respite of stability in this chaotic year of elections: Election Day. The “Time of chusing” remains “the Tuesday next after the first Monday in November” (for Congress as well as for the Presidential electors), and so, as is tradition, Americans eagerly wait for an early November day and the first bite of election results.

But below the surface of the stillness that precedes Election Day, canvassing operations around the country are churning through mail-in ballots. With still two weeks to go, many states have already begun counting votes-by-mail. Maryland’s local canvassing operations got the green light on October 1st, the earliest of any state, in order to handle the mail-in ballots from the 48% of its electorate that planned on using them in light of the pandemic. As of October 20th, the deadline for ballot requests, Marylanders had asked for 1.63 million mail-in ballots and voters had “cast” roughly 696,000 of those, returning them to local boards of elections by hand, mail, or through one of the state’s 283 drop boxes.

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2020 Forces “SeaChange” in Maryland’s Election Administration

When your state electorate increases its number of mail-in ballots cast by something like 1556% cycle-over-cycle, you might run into some problems. Take it from Maryland, where nearly 1.5 million voters cast their ballots by mail in this year’s presidential primary, compared with just over 80,000 combined votes by absentee/provisional ballot in the 2016 primary. Maryland is not Oregon or Washington, states experienced in administering largely vote-by-mail elections, in which mailed ballots account for some 97% of those cast. Pre-Covid Maryland required no excuse from voters who wished to vote by mail, but the practice was rare. Historically, in-person voting accounts for 90% of Maryland’s ballots cast. The 2016 general election set the previous record for “ballots sent” to requesting voters: Marylanders requested approximately 226,000 ballots and returned roughly 177,000. By contrast, the State mailed nearly 3.6 million ballots for the June 2nd primary, and voters returned almost 1.5 million of them. Continue reading

About 1,650 Ballots Handled Improperly in Baltimore Election        

By: Mengxin Cui

Baltimore has a long history of election administration problems. According to media reports, election workers often lack knowledge of procedure, polling places sometimes fail to open on time, equipment shuts down, election judges fail to show up, and so on. Commenting on these problems, Roger E. Hartley, dean of the College of Public Affairs at the University of Baltimore observed that, “[i]f we’re experiencing problems over and over again, not anticipating them in advance, that has a major impact on the credibility of the system.” Baltimore’s history shows us that even when problems occur, courts rarely order new elections. Some legal and political experts explain that an election “do-over” is an extremely expensive decision, and may bring about a host of new problems. For this reason, courts and election administrators almost never order election do-overs.

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About 1,650 Ballots Handled Improperly in Baltimore Election

 

By: Mengxin Cui

Baltimore has a long history of election administration problems. According to media reports, election workers often lack knowledge of procedure, polling places sometimes fail to open on time, equipment shuts down, election judges fail to show up, and so on. Commenting on these problems, Roger E. Hartley, Dean of the College of Public Affairs at the University of Baltimore observed that, “[i]f we’re experiencing problems over and over again, not anticipating them in advance, that has a major impact on the credibility of the system.” Baltimore’s history shows us that even when problems occur, courts rarely order new elections. Some legal and political experts explain that an election “do-over” is an extremely expensive decision, and may bring about a host of new problems. For this reason, courts and election administrators almost never order election do-overs.

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MD: Success in Voting Rights Restoration and Difficulties in Research

By: Mengxin (Esther) Cui

After a lengthy effort, Marylanders with felony convictions finally regained their voting rights automatically upon completion of their sentences. Unlike most states that automatically restore voting rights to people upon completion of their sentences, Maryland’s new policy does not require people to complete terms of probation or parole before restoring their right to vote (with the one exception that those convicted of buying or selling votes never regain eligibility to register to vote).  This change in Maryland’s policy followed the state legislature’s veto override on February 9, 2016.  Around 40,000 people are the beneficiaries of this override.

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Crafting Competitive Criteria: The Institution is Critical

By: Benjamin Williams

With the rapid increase in political polarization in recent years, momentum is building in several states to dramatically alter the redistricting process after the 2020 Census. True to the idea of the states being laboratories of democracy, there have been state constitutional amendments in Florida, partisan gerrymandering challenges in Wisconsin, Maryland, and North Carolina, redistricting criteria bills in Virginia, as well as a myriad of racial gerrymandering challenges. But the new idea—based on a blend of Iowa-style and Florida-style redistricting—is to create stringent criteria for legislatures to follow. That idea is simple enough: if the redistricting body (legislature, independent redistricting commission, college students, etc.) is forced to follow strict criteria when redistricting, the result will be “better” districts that aren’t ugly and are more competitive. But does the data actually bear this out?

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MD: Online Petitions and E-Signatures

The rapid rise and evolution of the internet has fundamentally altered many aspects of our modern life.  The way we interact with each other, the way business is conducted, and even the way we get our news and information has been changed by the internet and social media’s ability to instantly connect us to almost anyone in the world.  Ideas can be shared, opinions voiced, and issues discussed with both friends and strangers alike through the stroke of a key.  We now have the ability to connect with others and find common cause over issues and ideals that once would be barred by geographic limitations on communication.  Computers are being made smaller, faster, and even being integrated into wearable objects like watches and glasses so we never have to be too far from the internet.  The ability to reach millions of people instantly is being utilized in new and different ways by groups trying to disseminate their ideas and promote their agendas.  How far should the amazing new ability for every individual to voice his or her opinion on the internet stretch into the realm of election law?

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Conflicted Court Likely to Reverse 4th Circuit in Maryland Redistricting Case

By: Hayley Steffen

The stakes were high at oral argument for Shapiro v. McManus on November 4, 2015. Justice Breyer said Shapiro and his co-plaintiffs “want[ed] to raise about as important a question as you can imagine . . . And if they [were] right, that would affect congressional districts and legislative districts throughout the nation.” It was clear that the justices struggled with the serious implications that their decision could have for future redistricting and partisan gerrymandering cases.

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William & Mary Alum, Washington Post Article

Check out this opinion post by William C. Smith Jr., “The meaning of the vote to an ex-prisoner“.

The fleming I write about is the fleming of the late thirties and the war years, when the useless stockbroker turned college-essay-help.org/ into the avid spymaster.

Supreme Court hearing Maryland Redistricting Case is not “Frivolous” for Future of Election Law Procedure

By: Hayley A Steffen

The Supreme Court has famously asserted that the right to vote is “preservative of other basic civil and political rights.” Recognizing the right to vote is implicated in election law litigation, Congress enacted special procedures for adjudicating these claims under the Three-Judge Act of 1910. Now codified under 28 U.S.C. § 2284, one provision requires a three-judge district court to hear constitutional challenges to redistricting claims of any congressional or statewide legislative body. Although the statute reads that the single judge to whom the request for a three-judge panel is made “may determine that a panel is not necessary,” it is unclear under what standard the judge has the authority to do so. Next month, the Supreme Court will be called upon to clarify this standard in a case brought by a Maryland man challenging the state’s redistricting scheme.

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