Bills on ballot drop boxes, residency requirements, and other election-related matters have been introduced in the Maryland General Assembly as the 2022 legislative session gets underway.

The Maryland Senate’s Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee heard testimony last week on eight election-related bills in a year when voting rights and a hot mid-term election are fronts of mind.

SB 0112, prohibiting false ballot drop boxes, was among the most discussed bills at the committee meeting. State Sen. Cheryl Kagan, D-Montgomery County, is the bill’s sponsor.

Kagan said the bill comes in response to the recent growth in ballot drop box use – particularly in the 2020 election when COVID-19 mitigation measures prompted unprecedented numbers of people to vote absentee.

The bill would prohibit a person, organization, association, or political party from collecting absentee ballots during an election in containers that are not the ballot drop boxes officially designated by local or state election boards.

In her testimony, Kagan said the bill would strengthen the policies and procedures already in place within the state.

Ballot drop boxes “cannot be messed with,” Kagan said. “Ballots are picked up by bi-partisan teams, with a security person next to them.”

The committee fielded a mix of comments, for and against the legislation, at the hearing.

“Voters in Montgomery County were so taken with drop boxes that we had to rethink whether the ballots should be called vote-by-mail ballots because voters didn’t use the mail,” David Naimon, a member of the Montgomery County Board of Elections, said as he shared support for the bill.

But Ella Ennis of the Maryland Federation of Republican Women said the legislation did not address her organization’s concerns about election security and integrity.

“We don’t believe that [the bill] actually prohibits ballot harvesting,” Ennis said. “The ballot talks about unofficial boxes. I don’t know what unofficial boxes are. There’s no definition of them, or what their purpose is.”

Candidates could face stricter residency requirements in the future, based on SB 0063, which state Sen. Delores Kelley, D-Price George’s County, is co-sponsoring.

“There’s so much ambiguity right now, and there are members here right now that many of us believe do not live in the districts they represent,” Kelley said of the impetus behind the bill’s creation. “That’s not right. We know that’s not constitutional.”

Among the bill’s various stipulations is a provision that could require the General Assembly’s corporate counsel to review annually if each delegate and senator’s residency meshes with the specific district he or she represents.

The committee also reviewed the following bills:

SB 0015, which would give state prosecutors more leeway in handling alleged violations of state election laws.

SB 0088, is a proposed amendment to the state constitution calling for gubernatorial candidates to designate a lieutenant governor within 21 days after the primary election has taken place.

SB 0101, legislation that would set new parameters on who or which entity would be responsible for paying expenses related to ballot recounts.

SB 0158, a bill calling for more transparency in reporting expenses for election-related goods and services.

SB 0163, which would set new policies and procedures for curing errors on absentee and provisional ballots.

SB 0239, a bill that would protect a contributor from having his or her information shared for commercial purposes.

This article was oringally published on TheCenterSquare.com.


David Fidlin

The Center Square contributor

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