ANNAPOLIS – Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. is set to introduce legislation to give those Marylanders forced to wait in long lines last election more flexibility when it comes to casting their vote.
The bill would allow people to cast ballots eight days in advance of elections — a move Miller said will allow more people to take part.
The proposal is hardly revolutionary.
“More than a dozen states have already increased voter options by allowing citizens to cast their votes early,” Miller said.
According to Electionline.org, 35 states allow some early voting including Florida, Virginia, West Virginia and Texas.
“It works well in other states and would enhance the quality of life in Maryland. It promotes easy access to voting,” Miller said.
The administrator for the State Board of Elections sees the bill favorably.
“Anything that makes it more convenient for the voters and could enhance voter turnout is certainly a good thing and welcome to us,” Linda Lamone said.
However, Lamone said it will have an impact on local boards of elections, which are charged with carrying out the laws.
“But, as has been the history in Maryland, the county boards of elections have implemented what the policy makers decide,” she said.
But the Senate minority whip, who is also on the committee that will hear the bill, isn’t sure such legislation is needed.
“I think there is a purpose to be served by people coming out to polls on Election Day,” said Sen. Andrew P. Harris, R-Baltimore, a member of the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee.
“As campaigns occur, people only pay attention in the last two weeks. A lot of issues are discussed in those last two weeks which climax on Election Day,” he said.
By voting early, Harris said, people may be casting their ballots before all information is available or before they can properly assess the information.
Another member of the Senate committee, Sen. Allan H. Kittleman, R-Howard, is interested in learning about the proposed legislation
“It probably has some merit and is worth considering, I can’t say whether I would support or oppose it at this time,” Kittleman said. He wants to look at other states that have passed such legislation.
“It makes sense for us to see how it works in their jurisdictions and whether it is beneficial,” Kittleman said.
Voting groups say the effort makes sense.
The director of TrueVoteMD, Kevin Zeese said, “We support this effort to make voting easier for Maryland voters.”
Kittleman said he wants to know what the fiscal impact of such a move will be.
The executive director of Common Cause Maryland said one impact will be greater security.
“Now there is so much security that will have to be in place,” James Browning said. “It will have to be in place for a longer period and it is worth it if you get higher voter turnout.”
But most importantly, Browning said, “(It) is a good idea, which would open up the process and make sure people don’t get discouraged by a long line on Election Day.”