A bill that would require Frederick County voters to show some form of identification to vote in the 2014 elections is unlikely to be taken up in the General Assembly, according to several state lawmakers.
The issue was aired Friday during an annual meeting between the Frederick County Board of Commissioners and the county’s delegation to the General Assembly in Annapolis, as well as during a public hearing Saturday with the delegation and residents.
The bill, proposed by commissioners’ President Blaine R. Young (R), would require voters to show identification such as a voter registration card, Social Security card, birth certificate or any valid state-issued identification to cast their vote at the polls.
The proposal would be a pilot program applying only to Frederick County to gauge what effects it would have on potential voter fraud.
Young admitted there’s little evidence of such fraud, but he views the proposed measure as a proactive approach to preventing it, he said.
State Sen. David Brinkley (R-Dist. 4) said he thinks the issue is better off as a position statement in the legislative package outlining the commissioners’ stance on the issue but not calling for an actual bill.
Brinkley said he disagrees with carving out Frederick County and making its voters follow different laws than those in other counties.
“The state should do it or nobody [should],” he said.
The proposed bill sparked a philosophical debate among the eight-member delegation about the wisdom of introducing county bills on issues that have statewide implications.
Del. Kathy Afzali (R-Dist. 4A) said she was in favor of introducing the bill and making opponents explain why the county shouldn’t be allowed to undertake such a pilot program.
“They might have some explaining to do on why we can’t get it through for just our county,” she said.
But Del. Patrick Hogan (R-Dist. 3A) argued that when the county takes on statewide issues, it hurts the legislators’ chances on local issues they want to get passed.
Most local legislation passes the General Assembly by a process known as “local courtesy,” in which lawmakers from other parts of the state defer to a local delegation’s position on a bill.
Hogan and Del. Galen Claggett (D-Dist. 3A) argued that introducing bills such as the voter identification measure hurt the delegation’s chances of obtaining local courtesy.
But Afzali said that since the bill never would be taken up by the committees that it goes to, there was no real harm to the county.
“I disagree with that. It does hurt us,” Claggett said. “When we send this stuff down there, even though it doesn’t come out of the committee, people talk. And they say, ‘What kind of legislation are they sending us? We can’t do that, this is ridiculous,’ and we get a reputation then of sending down stuff that can’t fly.”
A motion by Young among the commissioners to change the measure from a bill to a position statement failed with him as the only vote.
Commissioner David Gray (R) announced that he had planned to abstain from that vote because he thought it neither should be a bill nor a position statement. Commissioners’ Vice President C. Paul Smith (R) was absent for the vote.
The four commissioners did vote to turn two bill proposals into position statements, including one by Commissioner Billy Shreve (R) exempting Frederick County residents from a state law requiring them to wear a helmet when riding a scooter.
A proposed bill to make the state constitution apply to the congressional redistricting process also was changed to a position statement.
In all, the delegation will consider 13 bills proposed by the commissioners, along with 17 position statements.
The helmet law ran into some of the same opposition as Young’s voter ID proposal.
“There are a lot of bad laws in the state of Maryland, but a Frederick County delegation bill isn’t always the best vehicle to try and change the state laws that are passed,” Hogan said.
Many of the bills the commissioners currently have to send to Annapolis for approval through the delegation won’t be needed once the county transitions to charter government in 2013 as approved by voters in November.