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The Maryland General Assembly has approved changes to the 2024 election that are a reflection of changing voter habits

Maryland statehouse at night.
Matt Bush/WYPR
"I Voted/Yo Vote" stickers at a polling place in Silver Spring, Md., during the U.S. midterm elections in 2018. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Covid-19 changed voting.

With voting by mail increasing in popularity since 2020, Covid may have changed voting permanently. And with that in mind, the Maryland General Assembly approved several measures that reflect the new reality regarding voting and elections. Here’s a look at a few of them below that are awaiting Governor Wes Moore’s signature.


This was the largest bill that lawmakers approved, and it does several things. First, it gives voters more options to fix a common mistake with mail-in ballots - a lack of a signature or an unclear one. Without that signature, the ballot would not be counted, says Senator Cheryl Kagan of Montgomery County.

“Folks shouldn’t have to show up at a polling place or a board of elections or send in a letter(to ‘cure’ their ballot)”, says the Democrat, who sponsored the Senate version of the bill making the changes. “So, we created a text portal, email, cell phones…different options. Which is the way we communicate today.”

There were security concerns, mostly from Republicans, over the text option to cure ballots. Kagan maintains those are overblown. “People are given a unique link,” she explains. “They must still provide personal identifying information, and then they would be able to validate that it was indeed their ballot, so it could be counted.”

The same bill also makes a significant change that could bring final results quicker. Maryland is currently the only state that doesn’t allow local boards of election to start processing - much less counting - mail-in ballots until two days after Election Day. For next year, those boards can start processing ahead of time according to Kagan. She explains the difference between processing and counting.

“So literally it’s opening the envelopes,” says Kagan. “It’s looking to make sure there’s a signature to validate the ballot. It’s flattening the ballots, batching them, running through the scanner, but not totaling them. There would be no one before Election Day that would have any information about who’s winning or losing.”

Several elections last fall took weeks before a winner was declared because of delays in counting mail-in ballots. They included the 6th Congressional District election in Western Maryland, as well as the county executive races in both Anne Arundel and Frederick Counties.

The bill also changes the primary election date for 2024. It initially was supposed to be April 23rd, but that date conflicts with Passover. It will now be May 14th.


Lawmakers also approved paying election judges more. They’ll be paid at least $250 per day depending on experience. They’ll also be paid for each training course they complete. Kagan says that’s needed to recruit more judges. “We don’t pay them enough, and there’s a lot of stress that day and the hours are extremely long,” Kagan explains. “We also need people from both parties. And unaffiliated people are welcome too.”


This bill changes how the Maryland Board of Elections could potentially remove the Maryland Administrator of Elections, who oversees voting in the state. Currently, it only takes three of the five board members voting yes. Democrats and Republicans each get two members on the board, with the final seat (which decides the majority) going to the party of the sitting Governor. That means a party-line vote could remove the administrator. SB683 requires four of the five now vote in favor of removal, something Kagan says will require bipartisan agreement for such a drastic step.


These measures require the Maryland Board of Elections to post municipal election results on its website. Municipalities have 30 days to send results once they’re certified to the state board. Supporters say it will make it easier to find local election results having them on one site, as opposed to 24 individual local pages.

Matt Bush spent 14 years in public radio prior to coming to WYPR as news director in October 2022. From 2008 to 2016, he worked at Washington D.C.’s NPR affiliate, WAMU, where he was the station’s Maryland reporter. He covered the Maryland General Assembly for six years (alongside several WYPR reporters in the statehouse radio bullpen) as well as both Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. @MattBushMD
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