When your state electorate increases its number of mail-in ballots cast by something like 1556% cycle-over-cycle, you might run into some problems. Take it from Maryland, where nearly 1.5 million voters cast their ballots by mail in this year’s presidential primary, compared with just over 80,000 combined votes by absentee/provisional ballot in the 2016 primary. Maryland is not Oregon or Washington, states experienced in administering largely vote-by-mail elections, in which mailed ballots account for some 97% of those cast. Pre-Covid Maryland required no excuse from voters who wished to vote by mail, but the practice was rare. Historically, in-person voting accounts for 90% of Maryland’s ballots cast. The 2016 general election set the previous record for “ballots sent” to requesting voters: Marylanders requested approximately 226,000 ballots and returned roughly 177,000. By contrast, the State mailed nearly 3.6 million ballots for the June 2nd primary, and voters returned almost 1.5 million of them. [Read more…] about 2020 Forces “SeaChange” in Maryland’s Election Administration
By: Drew Marvel
While the recent fascination with gerrymandering would suggest it is a recent development in American politics, the practice is far from new. Gerrymandering is the practice of drawing election districts so as to give one political party a majority in as many districts as possible by concentrating the voting strength of the other party into as few districts as possible – and it has been a consistent force in American politics since the early 1800s. Contrary to the popular view of Republicans as the primary, if not sole, proponents and benefactors of gerrymandering, politicians in every state, Republicans and Democrats alike, have utilized this tactic to entrench themselves into power.
By: Zach Allentuck
The recent oral arguments for Gill v. Whitford left court–watchers unsure if the Supreme Court would strike down excessive partisan gerrymandering. Gill v. Whitford’s impact goes far beyond Wisconsin: as previously noted, there is a lawsuit against Maryland’s 6th Congressional District for excessive partisan gerrymandering. Though the 4th Circuit declined to throw out the congressional voting map that created the 6th Congressional District, the case does not end there. The 4th Circuit wants to wait and see how the Supreme Court rules in Gill v. Whitford before issuing a ruling, and the plaintiffs announced their intent to appeal to the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court sides with the plaintiffs in Gill, what would happen to the Maryland case?
By: Mengxin Cui
Baltimore has a long history of election administration problems. According to media reports, election workers often lack knowledge of procedure, polling places sometimes fail to open on time, equipment shuts down, election judges fail to show up, and so on. Commenting on these problems, Roger E. Hartley, dean of the College of Public Affairs at the University of Baltimore observed that, “[i]f we’re experiencing problems over and over again, not anticipating them in advance, that has a major impact on the credibility of the system.” Baltimore’s history shows us that even when problems occur, courts rarely order new elections. Some legal and political experts explain that an election “do-over” is an extremely expensive decision, and may bring about a host of new problems. For this reason, courts and election administrators almost never order election do-overs.
By: Angela M. Evanowski
On October 24, 2016, famous singer and actor Justin Timberlake found himself in trouble after posting a “ballot selfie” on his two social media accounts, Twitter and Instagram. Timberlake, who is registered to vote in Tennessee, flew from California to his home voting county and posted the selfies in order to encourage millennials and fans to vote. However, to the surprise of Timberlake, the state of Tennessee earlier this year passed a law banning voters from taking photographs or videos during the voting process. Luckily, for this famous former boy-band member, he is not going to face any criminal charges or punishment for posting his ballot selfies. [Read more…] about Flip and Flop: Federal judge lifts Michigan state law banning “Ballot Selfies,” but Sixth Circuit reverses four days later