Montgomery County voters would be able to cast their votes in special elections through a mail-in ballot under legislation proposed by a state lawmaker. Mail-in ballots would save the county money and encourage more voter participation in typically low-interest special elections, said Sen. Jennie M. Forehand (D-Dist. 17) of Rockville, who has prefiled the bill.
Voter turnout in the county for five special elections between April 2008 and May 2009 — made necessary after the deaths of two County Council members and the resignation of former U.S. Rep. Albert R. Wynn — ranged from 6.8 percent to 11.5 percent. Combined, those five elections cost $5.4 million. “I’m always on the lookout to save money,” said Forehand, who introduced similar vote-by-mail legislation in 2010 and 2011. Forehand also expects to introduce another bill during the General Assembly’s 90-day legislative session that would allow jurisdictions statewide to adopt voting by mail in special elections, Forehand said.
In states, such as Oregon, that have adopted mailed balloting, the cost of conducting an election has decreased as much as 50 percent — in part because fewer poll workers and electronic voting machines were needed. In 2010, the Montgomery County Board of Elections estimated that about $1 million could be saved per election conducted by mail.