Two lawmakers want to increase turnout by extending early voting through the Sunday before Election Day, a move election officials say would wipe out safeguards that keep people from voting twice. House Ways and Means Committee Chair Sheila Hixson, D-Montgomery, and Del. Jon Cardin, D-Baltimore County, wrote a letter to state elections administrator Linda Lamone June 6 asking for the change. Cardin serves as the Ways and Means subcommittee chairman for election law and is a probable candidate for attorney General in 2014. The delegates argued an extra weekend could increase voter turnout. “Maryland’s early voting period remains one of the most limited in the nation,” Hixson and Cardin wrote. “The Brennan Center for Justice recommends allowing early voting on the weekend before Election Day, because early voting turnout increases as public excitement and media coverage of the election build as Election Day approaches.”
But Lamone wrote back and said that implementing the change would essentially reverse a standing election policy that was designed to prevent voter fraud. The policy requires updating all electronic poll books before Election Day — an administrative step that takes up the full weekend before Election Day. Early voting ends on the last Thursday of the month before the general or primary election.
“As you may recall, when early voting was enacted, Maryland policy makers wanted early voting administered in a manner that would be capable of preventing a voter from voting more than once,” State Election Administrator Linda Lamone wrote in a June 11 letter.
“Abandoning the practice of updating poll books before Election Day with early voting information would address most of the administrative issues associated with early voting through Sunday. However, it would also represent a significant policy change from preventing a voter from voting more than once to relying on deterrence and prosecution after the fact.”