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Category: Maryland (page 2 of 3)

Mental Disability and the Vote

by Andy Howard

People in our culture are accustomed to analogizing poor voting decisions with mental disabilities.  Who among us hasn’t called people “crazy” when they vote in ways with which we disagree?  This sorry attitude, though, is a reflection of our culture’s stigma against people with mental disabilities.  People with cognitive disabilities are frequently seen as a class that does not enjoy the same freedoms as others, including that of suffrage.  Do we, as a society, really feel that people with disabilities don’t have an interest in the public policies propounded by our government?   Continue reading

Be careful what you wish for: MD’s centralized voter registration too efficient?

by Anna Killius, Contributor

So much can go wrong before a voter ever reaches the voting booth. Voters encounter registration requirements, polling place assignments and identification law confusion. On Election Day, long lines and chilly temperatures can test the fortitude of even the most dedicated citizens. But imagine waiting for hours and dutifully handing over your driver’s license and voter registration card, only to be told that you are missing from the poll books. According to the Maryland State Board of Elections, you no longer live at your address, and your precinct has been changed. This is precisely what Christopher Lochner faced when he arrived at the Hereford polling station on November 6th, and he may not have been alone. With Maryland’s centralized voter registration system, it is now easier for voters to inadvertently signal a change of address, potentially leaving displaced and disgruntled voters to cast provisional ballots.

Centralized, computerized systems are a relatively recent addition to the election process, but, for Maryland, the idea is nothing new. After the 1994 gubernatorial election was decided by less than 6,000 votes, Governor Glendening created a 13-member task force to investigate and suggest reforms for the Maryland election system. Among those suggestions was a centralized state registration roll to replace those individually maintained by the counties. Budget constraints prevented Maryland from acting on this ambitious plan until Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002.  Continue reading

MD Court: Dream Act Referendum Appropriate, Not Appropriation

by Anna Killius

In the 97 years since Maryland amended its constitution to allow for referendums, citizens have successfully put legislation to a popular vote only 13 times. Often, petitions failed to collect the necessary number of validated signatures, but the modern use of online petitions has facilitated the collection of signatures, accounting for up to 40% of those validated by the state Board of Elections. Consequently, Maryland citizens will soon have the opportunity to vote on three referendums, an unprecedented number, targeted at defeating the expansion of in-state tuition coverage, gay marriage equality, and a congressional redistricting plan. Proponents of the challenged measures have turned to the courts in an effort to prevent the referendums from reaching the November ballot. Continue reading

A time for change: an examination of Baltimore City’s record low voter turnout

by Ashley Ward

As you drive through the streets of Baltimore City, many areas still bare the campaign efforts of the six mayoral candidates. Posters plastered on walls, fliers in store front windows and stickers on bumpers. The abundance of the campaign fanfare throughout the city turned out to be a rouge when the September 13th primary produced the lowest voter turnout in Baltimore’s history. After the  polls closed, 23% of registered voters had participated, equaling only 12% of the city’s population (rounded from the Unofficial Polling Place Turnout). Even more disappointing was the turnout for the November 8th general election, which produced an even lower turnout than the primaries—reportedly, only 10-12% of registered voters showed. Until September, the lowest turnout Baltimore had seen for a primary was 27% in 1991.

Maryland is not the only state dealing with disappointingly low voter turnout. Kentucky’s November 8th gubernatorial race had only a 29% turnout, and New Jersey saw their lowest turnout in history with 26%. So what is causing such low voter turnout and should there be concern with a Presidential election year approaching? Many scholars and political analysts have their own theories. One of the most popular reasons is voter apathy. The 2010 census reported that the highest population within the 20-24 years and 25-29 years age group. The Unofficial Polling Place Turnout reported that both ages were the least likely to vote, especially the males within the age group. When asked why he did not vote, 21 year old Kevin Clark said, “It was all the same old stuff.”  Many younger citizens do not understand the importance of voting. Continue reading

All states (IRV): The courts got it right: recognizing that instant runoff voting makes every vote count

by: Guest Contributor Elise Helgesen


This November, Instant Runoff Voting (IRV), also called ranked choice voting, will be used for fiercely contested elections for mayor in San Francisco (CA), Portland (ME), and Telluride (CO) as well as for city council elections in St. Paul (MN) and Takoma Park (MD). IRV is also used abroad: Ireland will elect its president with IRV this month, and London will use IRV for mayoral elections in 2012. As recommended by Robert’s Rules of Order, more than 50 American colleges and universities now elect their student leaders with IRV.

With IRV, voters get one vote and one ballot, but get to rank candidates in order of preference. If no candidate wins with a first-choice majority, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and their supporters’ second choices are added to the totals of the remaining candidates in an “instant runoff.” The process of elimination and redistribution continues until one candidate has a majority. Continue reading

Maryland & Indiana: A robocall showdown

How different states are handling political robocall controversies.

by Ashley Ward

What thought comes to mind upon hearing the word “Robocall”? For most, the thought conjures ideas of annoying telemarketing. However, for Democrats in the Baltimore and Prince George’s Counties, robocalls received on the 2010 election night added new thoughts to the definition: voter confusion and suppression. Before the polls closed for the 2010 Gubernatorial Race, residents received a call from an unnamed woman who said: “I’m calling to let everyone know that Governor O’Malley and President Obama have been successful. Our goals have been met…The only thing left is to watch it on TV tonight. Congratulations and thank you.” Listen Here

The message seemed to imply that the Democratic candidate had already won the election and therefore the residents’ vote would be excessive and not needed. This implication was ill-gotten because there was no way to know at that time which candidate won. Many confused and upset residents contacted Gov. O’ Malley’s campaign center to complain.  Further investigation proved that the governor and his team had nothing to do with the calls. In fact, investigators determined that the members of the Republican candidate, former Gov. Eurlich’s team were responsible for the calls that have been considered by many to be a tactic to discourage the African American vote.
Continue reading

Weekly Wrap-Up

Did Michelle Obama violate Illinois state election law? After Michelle Obama turned in her early voting ballot yesterday, she stopped outside the voting booth to take pictures with people in the area, including an electrician, Dennis Campbell. According to Campbell and a reporter who was nearby, Michelle stated that it was very important that he vote “to help keep her husband’s agenda going.” Illinois state law (Sec. 17-29 (a)) states that “No judge of election, pollwatcher, or other person shall, at any primary or election, do any electioneering or soliciting of votes or engage in any political discussion within any polling place, within 100 feet of any polling place.” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs responded to the accusation by stating that “I don’t think it would be much to imagine, the First Lady might support her husband’s agenda.”

Charges were filed against a Maryland man, Jerry Mathis, for distributing an official-looking sample ballot that turned out to be fake.  The false ballots alarmed several candidates when they saw that the wrong matchups were checked.  Under Maryland law, Mr. Mathis could be facing a maximum of one year in jail and a $25,000 fine. Continue reading

Vote Early, Vote Often: The Pros and Cons of Maryland’s Early Voting Law

This week, Maryland began its first election with early voting.  The recently passed early voting laws in Maryland allow for voters to cast ballots in-person up to ten days prior to the election (not counting Sunday.)

The technical distinction between absentee voting and early voting is that with early voting you are not required to have an excuse for not voting on Election Day.  Also, early voting is typically performed using the same method as Election Day voting, rather than on an absentee-type paper ballot.

Early voting is an attempt to address significant problems facing elections today.  Allowing voters to cast their ballot early alleviates traffic and lines at the polls.  Also, allowing a greater time period to vote will almost certainly increase overall voter turnout simply because it may be more convenient. Texas has even allowed “curbside voting” during early voting, a process where, if you call in advance, you can get a poll worker to bring the ballot to your car as you arrive at the precinct (only for those who have difficulty walking or standing for extended periods, of course.)  I, for one, support the use of Applebee’s Carside To Go technology on Election Day. Continue reading

Weekly Wrap Up

Every week, State of Elections brings you the latest news in state election law.

– Soon, even a candidate’s tweets will be governed by a legion of rules and regulations.  The Maryland Board of Elections is attempting to devise rules for the use of social media by candidates.

– The Tennessee Senate has passed a bill that would require potential voters to show proof of citizenship before registering.  The state Attorney General believes that the law could potentially violate the federal Motor Voter Act.

– Congressman Michael Capuano has written an editorial for the Boston Herald about Citizens United and the proposed Shareholder Protection Act.  For more about shareholder protection and Citizens United, see this post by William and Mary law professor William Van Alstyne.

– The recent British election and the swift transfer of power from Gordon Brown to David Cameron has some wondering how the U.S. could reduce the time between elections and inaugurations.  See this article from Slate for a proposal for how such a reduction could be accomplished without a constitutional amendment.

Pedro A. Cortés, Pennsylvania’s Secretary of the Commonwealth and the top election official in that state, has resigned. Cortés will be pursuing opportunities in the private sector, as vice president of a voting technology company.

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Weekly Wrap Up

Every week, State of Elections brings you the latest news in state election law.

– Gerry Hebert, one of the panelists at our recent election law symposium, wrote this article about a recent legislative effort to undermine Fair Districts Florida.  Fair Districts Florida is an organization dedicated to fixing the redistricting process and the prevention of  gerrymandering.

– In Virginia, there is growing confusion about the restoration of felon voting rights.  Earlier this week, the governor’s office sent letters to 200 ex-felons, telling them that they would need to submit an essay as part of the application process for the restoration of their voting rights.  On the 14th, Governor McDonnell claimed that the letters had been sent in error, and that the essay requirement was simply a “draft policy proposal“.  Of course, this is only the third most controversial retraction the Governor has issued in the last month.

– A bill that would require voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot has received first round approval from the Missouri House. A previous photo ID law in Missouri was struck down by the Missouri Supreme Court for being a “heavy and substantial burden on Missourians’ free exercise of the right of suffrage.”

– In Cleveland, an elections board test of voting machines has produced alarming results.  About 10% of voting machines failed the test, and the state has less than a month.

– Maryland has become the first state to count prison inmates as residents of their home address, instead of counting them as residents of their prison location.  The U.S. Census considers inmates to be residents of their prison, a practice that has been criticized as distorting the population count and leading to unfairness during the redistricting process.

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