A mass mail-in voting bill, also known as House Bill 153, has been proposed during this year’s General Assembly in Annapolis, and while some lawmakers say it will bring more accessibility to voters, others claim it would have a negative impact on voter integrity.
Introduced by Del. Julian Ivey (D-Prince George’s) and Shaneka Henson (D-Anne Arundel), the legislation would require each local board of elections to send a vote-by-mail ballot to every registered voter across the state in primary and general elections.
“It’s very simple,” Ivey said during a debate earlier this year. “It’ll ensure that every single registered voter has access to our ballots in the upcoming elections.”
In the same debate, Del. Matt Morgan (R-St. Mary’s) expressed his opposition to the bill, calling it a “threat to democracy.”
“I don’t like the bill at all,” he said. “A recent Rasmussen poll said that 70% of Republicans thought problems occurred in the presidential election that just passed … in the same poll, 30% of Democrats said there were issues.”
The delegate pointed out in the last primary election, almost 35,000 votes had been thrown out across the state due to being incorrect or duplicates, which is “more votes than occurred in 18 counties.” He said the mass mail-in model used during the pandemic should not be continued since COVID-19 “will not be around during the next election.”
“What my colleague failed to bring up is the state board of elections has already told us there is no widespread evidence of voter fraud,” Ivey responded. He said they were told, though, more individuals participated than in the past. “I think that’s the goal of our democracy.”
While a handful of individuals attempted to vote after already voting by mail, he claimed the state prosecutor would pursue such allegations.
Morgan said the bill was not about increasing voter access but “controlling and enhancing raw political power.”
Registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans more than two to one in Maryland.
Ivey noted the state board of elections would do the work of going over voter rules and confirming citizens’ addresses if the legislation passed, and mentioned some other states only allow mail-in voting, “which is not what this bill would do.”
“Distrust in the election process is not good for our country, it’s not good for our state,” Morgan said. “People across Maryland” are concerned “about voter integrity.”
When asked if fraudulent ballots had been counted in the past election, the delegate responded, “I don’t know, do you?” He added, without providing proof, that some non-citizens already vote in areas like Prince George’s County and third-party agencies “are out there ballot-harvesting. … It’s ripe for fraud.”
William “BJ” Hall, president of the St. Mary’s Chapter of the NAACP, shared with Southern Maryland News on Monday, after first hearing the premise of the bill, his impression is that it would “be a positive thing.”
With the last election, there was an issue with voter access in St. Mary’s County, he said, as only one early voting center was available, located at the Hollywood firehouse. And, most usual precincts were not open on Election Day after the state and county opted for “voting centers” spread around the county at a few sites. Many living in the south end of St. Mary’s expressed concerns with having a longer commute than some others.
“Additional access to exercise the right to vote is never a bad idea,” Hall said. “If we didn’t have the mail-in option [during last year’s election], I don’t think as many people would have participated.”