Bills aiming to allow ballot curing, curbside voting make progress through Md. General Assembly

MARYLAND – Mail-in voting is once again a hot topic of discussion in the halls of the Maryland General Assembly. They’re looking at two bills. HB1345 would create consistent design standards for mail-in ballots. It would also standardize what’s called ballot curing – or allowing voters to fill in missing information or fix incorrectly completed ballots.

But Delegate Wayne Hartman says he has concerns about what that ballot curing process would look like. “If they have the ability to fix their ballot and it’s as simple as a signature it’s one thing. But to say the ballot has to be replaced, does it allow them the opportunity to change their vote?” said Del. Hartman.

Del. Hartman says he also worries about how the time frame for curing ballots will be constructed, so elections aren’t delayed. He says stepping back and looking at the bigger picture, he’s also concerned that bolstering mail in voting signals an overall move toward the practice in the future. “We’re going back to the whole process of expanding mail in ballots, which I would like to see us resist. Then when you’re adding to that a process for curing those ballots, that to me is just a whole other process that I don’t agree with,” said Del. Hartman.

Del. Hartman tells 47ABC another issue is the man power that would be needed to make both bills work. HB1020 would allow for curbside voting across the state. Two election judges would be required to visit each curbside voter as they fill out their ballots. “The cost on the local jurisdiction is huge – hundreds of thousands of dollars. The man power is the problem,” said Del. Hartman.

Del. Hartman says that for either bill, he thinks there might not be a whole lot of support before some changes are made to them. He adds that he hopes people will continue to vote in person when possible, as it can create stronger connections in the community. “You can learn from meeting the candidates what their basis for running is, and some of their ideas and thoughts. I really like people being involved and engaged and knowing who their elected officials are. It’s a great opportunity to meet them,” said Del. Hartman.

But others say they’re welcoming any changes that would improve voter accessibility with open arms. Director of the Wicomico County Board of Elections Anthony Gutierrez says he’s seen curbside voting work in other areas, and thinks it could work here in Maryland. “I was able to observe a Virginia election a few years ago and they had curbside voting. It went very well, that part that I was able to see at the polling places. So hopefully the State Board will use a model like that,” said Gutierrez.

Gutierrez adds that the bills would likely require some planning ahead to resolve those issues. But he says if those changes are to be made, now is the right time to do it. “It’s much better, now that we have the downtime of about a year before our next election to carefully do our best practices and lessons learned, and try to make sure that we make those improvements,” said Gutierrez.

Looking back over the past year, Gutierrez says he thinks no matter which way the bills go, he’s proud of his fellow election officials and poll workers. “Last year brought about a lot of challenges that we had to face in a very short time. So it opened up a lot of new things in Maryland, such as pre-processing ballots before the election or drop boxes,” said Gutierrez.

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