In 2021, Maryland made important pro-voter progress on absentee and early voting. While the Legislature passed a number of pro-voter initiatives, H 222, the restoration of rights bill, was unfortunately watered down prior to passage. In 2022, the only pro-voter bill that passed, which included much-needed reforms to the absentee ballot process, was vetoed by the governor. Though the state made some key progress, the governor’s veto of important absentee legislation was disappointing. Because of that, Maryland received a B- on this year’s progress report.
Where Maryland Started in 2020
- Automatic Voter Registration: Front-End
- Online Voter Registration: DMV ID
- Same-Day Registration: Yes
- Restoration of Rights: Prison Disenfranchisement
- Vote by Mail: No-Excuse
- Electronic Registration Information Center Member: Yes
- Early Voting Opportunities: Regular Ballot Early Voting
- ID Requirements: No Document Required
Relying on the Cost of Voting Index for Maryland as of 2020, we considered the state a top tier state for pre-existing voting policy and compared its 2021-22 activity against other top tier states.
How Our Tier Compares:
2021: Two Years Ago
From absentee and early voting to voter registration and restoration of rights, the General Assembly passed pro-voter reforms that touched on almost every area of election law during the 2021 session.
- H 1048/S 683 creates a permanent absentee voter list that any voter may opt into, explicitly authorizes drop boxes, and requires the State Board of Elections to send absentee ballot applications to all voters not already on the permanent absentee list in both 2022 and 2024.
- H 745 increases the number of vote centers required by setting specific population-based minimums for counties to follow and establishes a set of criteria for counties to follow when siting the vote centers.
- H 206/S 596 expands the start of early voting hours to 7am each day during the early voting period.
- H 156/S 283 requires local election boards to consider input from relevant residential institutions in the community, such as colleges, senior living facilities, and military bases, when siting polling places. It also expands voter registration opportunities for higher education students and members of the military.
- H 222 requires the State Board of Elections to create a program to allow eligible voters that are incarcerated to vote while they remain confined.
2022: This Past Year
- During the 2022 session, the Assembly passed S 163/ H 862, which included much-needed pro-voter reforms to the existing absentee voting process. The bill would have established a cure process for missing signatures on absentee ballots and would have allowed pre-processing of absentee ballots to begin well before Election Day. Sadly, Governor Hogan stepped in and vetoed the legislation.
- Despite Governor Hogan’s public acknowledgment that S 163/H 862 included “positive changes to state election law,” he vetoed them anyways. Unfortunately in this instance, the governor eschewed positive and meaningful absentee voting reforms for the possibility of a future omnibus absentee bill that could address everything from cure and signature verification to ballot collection rules all at once.