Right to Vote Task Force to Change the Election Law in Montgomery County, MD and Maryland.
The All-Democrat Montgomery County Council is puzzled by low voter turnout during the primary and general elections. In an attempt to solve this problem in the last primaries, the State of Maryland expanded early voting. Montgomery County also opened three new early voting centers, and extended the early voting time from 6 days to 8 days. But the result was still the same – low voter turnout. Only 16.34% of all registered voters in Montgomery County came out to cast their ballot. In addition, Maryland also recently adopted same-day voter registration during early voting that will be implemented in 2016.
The Montgomery County Council created a “Right to Vote” Task Force with the objective “to study state and local laws and practices that may affect the right to vote. The task force will develop plans and take action to promote early voting and same-day registration, develop plans for a comprehensive voter registration program and make recommendations for changes in state and local laws, regulations and practices.”
In the fall of 2013, they recruited 14 members for the Task Force:
10 Democrats, 3 Republicans and 1 Green Party member. As you read the recommendations below keep in mind that these views do not necessarily represent Republicans from the Task Force – they were badly outnumbered.
On June 4, 2014, the Task Force issued a report to the Montgomery County
Council with 59 recommendations. Some of the recommendations are positive reforms and would benefit the public. However, some of them would lead to potential fraud, and would even violate the U.S. Constitution and the current Election Law.
Below is a brief analysis of the recommendations:
Online Voter Registration
1. The Task Force recommends that Maryland modify the online voter registration system to allow individuals without IDs from the Motor Vehicle Administration to register online by providing a signature through an electronically captured image.
2. The Task Force recommends that Maryland revise the laws regarding its online registration system so that individuals who have neither a driver’s license, state ID, nor touchscreen/signature capture technology are sent a postcard to provide a signature to mail back and complete their applications.
3. If Recommendation #2 is not implemented, the Task Force recommends that Maryland add the capability to accept online registration information from applicants who must then print, sign, and mail their completed applications, so that when the application is eventually mailed in, the information is already in the system waiting to be reviewed. The information could be kept for a set number of days, such as 45 (this is the current practice in Virginia).
The three recommendations above are a good recipe for fraud. Voters are not required to show ID when they vote or when they register to vote. Online voter registration became available in Maryland as of September 2014, but requires full name, birthdate and the last 4 digits of one’s Social Security number. These recommendations would lack even those current online safeguards. Applicants would just need to sign up electronically or by post card. There would be no requirement to prove residency or verify identity. The applicant’s signature, electronic or hand written, would serve as identification. Meanwhile, photo ID is required to rent a car or hotel room.
Currently, the states have been operating under The National Voter Registration Act Of 1993 also known as the “NVRA” and the “Motor Voter Act.” The NVRA has made it easier for the citizens to register to vote and to maintain their registration through the Motor Vehicle Administration. However, to no one’s surprise, MVA may not be up to the task. The Gazette reported that during the last primary election, some Democrats had problems with voting due to someone changing their voter registration in the system. The full story can be found at: http://www.gazette.net/article/20140827/OPINION/140829280/-1/go-slow-on-voter-registration&template=gazette
Same Day Voter Registration
5. The Task Force recommends that the County Council encourage the Maryland General Assembly to pass a state constitutional amendment to establish Election Day registration.
For the last primary election (June 2014), Montgomery County already implemented same day voter registration during early voting but it didn’t increase the voter participation rate (only 16.34% voted). California has had same day registration on Election Day and online registration in place. Despite this, the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) reports that ” recent efforts to increase turnout by making registration easier—such as online and same-day registration—also appear to have no meaningful impact on primary turnout.”
After this year open-primaries in California, The Washington Post reported, it “ … was lousy. Like, “embarrassingly low.” The Los Angeles Times tried to diagnose the problem, saying “the cause of California’s embarrassingly low voter turnout Tuesday can be easily summarized by a simple equation: Relative contentment + a sense of predestined outcome = little incentive to vote.”
Moreover, same day voter registration on Election Day will not provide any opportunity for the Board of Election to verify the eligibility of a voter.
Ranked Choice Voting/ Instant Runoff Voting
32.The Task Force recommends that the County Council adopt ranked choice voting for county elections. The Council can phase in ranked choice voting, starting with the Council’s at-large seats, school board elections, or primary elections.
33.The Task Force recommends that the County Council encourage the Maryland General Assembly to adopt ranked choice voting for state elections.
Interestingly, many of the recommendations explicitly state that the Task Force goal is to simplify the voting process with clear formatting, font etc. However, ranking will make the process a little bit more complicated. Then, voters will need to take their time and complete the ranking “quiz.” This makes the process considerably more complicated.
Fair Redistricting State-level Recommendations:
36. Neutral Redistricting Criteria
The Task Force recommends that the County Council advocate for the Maryland General Assembly to establish the following neutral redistricting criteria for congressional redistricting and state legislative redistricting:
1. No redistricting plan or district may be drawn with the intent to favor or disfavor a political party or incumbent.
2. Notwithstanding Recommendation #36.1,districts may not be drawn with the intent or result of denying or abridging the equal opportunity of racial or language minorities to participate in the political process or to diminish their ability to elect representatives of their choice.
3. Congressional districts* must consist of adjoining territory, be compact in form, and of substantially equal population. Due regard must be given to natural boundaries and the boundaries of political subdivisions. *Criteria in #36.3 currently apply to the redistricting of Maryland General Assembly districts under the Maryland Constitution, art. III, sec. 4, but not to the redistricting of congressional districts.
At first glance, this looks good; however, the recommendation doesn’t address the issue of the gerrymandering Congressional District 3 and District 6 that occurred when Democrats redrew the congressional boundaries in 2012 . The Washington Post writes: “Maryland and North Carolina are essentially tied for the honor of most-gerrymandered state. With average gerrymander scores of about 88 out of a possible 100, Maryland and North Carolina are home to some of the ugliest districts in the nation among states with at least three Congressional districts.” During the presentation of the report, Council Member Phil Andrews showed the public a map of District 3 as an example of the ugliest congressional redistricting in the country. However, he didn’t tell the public that these recommendations will not be applied to Congressional Districts 3 and 6.
Voting Access/or Noncitizens with a Permanent Resident Visa.
52.The Task Force recommends that Montgomery County request the State of Maryland to allow each county to determine its own public policy with respect to the voting rights of non-citizens with permanent resident visas in county elections.
53.The Task Force recommends that Montgomery County allow non-citizens with permanent resident visas to vote in county elections if state law is changed to allow noncitizens to vote.
I am a first generation immigrant. I immigrated to the U.S.A. in 2000. In 2006, I became a U.S. citizen. To me and many of my fellow first generation immigrants, it’s important to take the steps necessary to share in the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. To become a U.S. citizen means, first and foremost, to have a right to vote and decide the fate of the county, state and country where we are citizens.
Recommendations 52 and 53 go against the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution, Amendment 14, Section 1 clearly states: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.” Unless Montgomery County plans on becoming a Sovereign Democratic People’s Republic of Montgomery County with its own currency, constitution, and passports, this recommendation should not be adopted.
The Task Force also recommends that the County Council encourage the Maryland General Assembly to change state law to allow incarcerated felons who are Maryland residents the option to register to vote during the pre-release phase before any parole and probation. That “pending” registration should only become active automatically on the date the person becomes eligible.
Voting Rights/or Residents with Felony Convictions
54.The Task Force recommends that Montgomery County develop and administer an active voter registration and civic education program as part of re-entry services provided in prison for people being released from the Montgomery County Correctional Facility. The County should create opportunities for voter registration for all prisoners awaiting trial for felony or misdemeanor charges or serving time for misdemeanor offenses.
56 .The Task Force recommends that the county encourage the Maryland General Assembly to change state law to restore voting rights to residents with felony convictions who have served their time in prison and pre-release programs but who are still serving a term of probation or parole.
57.The Task Force recommends that the County not support the full restoration of voting rights to all felons, including those still incarcerated or under house arrest or home-based detention (i.e. pre-release programs).
It is important to stress that the task force did not recommended the restoration of voting rights for felons that are still incarcerated or under house arrest or home-based detention, which is consistent with the current Maryland Election Law that already has in place the restoration of the voting rights for felons after they serve the term of incarceration, parole and probation.
Voting Rights for Residents Who Are 16 and 17 Years of Age
58. The Task Force recommends that the County Council and Executive propose to the Maryland General Assembly reducing the voting age from 18 to 16 years old for county elections.
Under Maryland law, a “child” is any person under the age of 18. Read the Law: MD Cts. and Jud. Proc. §3–8A–01 So, if we let our children to vote to elect officials and expect them to make a mature decision in electing officials, then this legislature also opens up a door for a change in the criminal law. The 16 and 17 year olds would not be “children” in the eyes of criminal law. It also creates a possibility that a candidate could seek election by pandering to issues relating to teenagers such as lowering drinking age, smoking age, legalizing pot and making it available to 16 year olds, etc. For example, under this legislation, a candidate could promise to lower the drinking age to 16 years old. Or maybe children would also choose to vote to exercise their 2nd amendment right to protect themselves in our vulnerable schools. Moreover, 16 and 17 year olds are also high school students and many teachers are also members of teacher unions that are very political and endorse their favorite candidates. This information is available on candidates’ websites with the big red apple that states “Teacher Recommended Montgomery County Education Association”.
The full report can be found at: