State of Elections

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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

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