Maryland House Approves Permanent Mail-In Ballot Option
A record number of Maryland voters chose to submit their ballots by mail last fall, but the process was not without its challenges. On Friday, the House of Delegates passed a bill designed to eliminate one of these challenges by allowing voters to register to receive absentee ballots every election, rather than having to submit a new request each cycle.
House Majority Leader Eric Luedtke said the bill will help people with disabilities or other mobility challenges.
“This will mean that they don't have to go through the trouble every single election of reapplying over and over and over and over and over again for an absentee ballot,” Luedtke said. “This means that people with disabilities and the elderly who have trouble getting to those early voting sites and getting to Election Day voting sites will have an easier time of voting.”
Republicans raised concerns about voter fraud and argued the bill could lead to “ballot harvesting” — people pressuring voters to support a certain candidate and then collecting their ballots — which is illegal.
“There are examples around the country that are real and legitimate, where certain political actors will go to people who get absentee ballots or mail-in ballots and coerce them and threaten them and treat them badly, and they take their ballot if they comply,” said House Minority Leader Nic Kipke, as he urged House members to vote down the bill. “We're just trying to have elections that all of us can feel good about, have confidence in.”
However, voter fraud and ballot harvesting are exceedingly rare, and those concerns misguided, said Del. Jhenealle Wilkins, the Montgomery County Democrat who sponsored the bill.
“Just because a group of voters have been lied to about fraud and red herrings and unfounded concerns around ballot harvesting does not mean that we have to embrace it in this chamber,” she said.