I haven’t brought the issue up a whole lot, but today’s post is going to deal with the Constiutional Amendment our General Assembly placed on the ballot for this election as Question 1. The reason they put the question in front of voters as a Constitutional Amendment was because previously passed legislation was found to run afoul of the Maryland Constitution, Article XVII, Section 2 which states:
(E)lections by qualified voters for State and county officers shall be held on the Tuesday next after the first Monday of November, in the year nineteen hundred and twenty-six, and on the same day in every fourth year thereafter.
The obvious argument proponents make is that adding days to the election cycle will increase turnout, and point to the 31 states who have adopted early voting. However, the question can be asked whether the turnout increase is large enough to justify the additional cost and volunteers needed to man the polls.
More importantly in Maryland’s case, the Constitutional Amendment as written allows voters to vote in any precinct statewide, regardless of where they reside. This presents a nightmare scenario of provisional ballots being cast by thousands of voters who aren’t familiar to the polling place officials, officials who cannot make the voter present a form of ID to verify their identity and address. Amendments to provide these safeguards were offered by Republicans during the original debate over the bill, but those common-sense provisions to require early votes to be cast in their home county and identification were both defeated by the Democrats in the Senate.
Already in place in Maryland is a system where voters can sit in the comfort of their own home, do whatever research they feel they need to on issues, and can fill out their ballot in a much more leisurely fashion – it’s called an absentee ballot. In Maryland, they’re available for the asking, without restriction except for being a registered voter. It’s a system that has been proven over time to effectively allow those who wish to vote at their convenience to do so. While the absentee ballot system would remain in place regardless of the disposition of Question 1, the potential for fraud and the additional expense for keeping polling places open for up to ten extra days outweighs the small gain in turnout early voting has been shown to provide.
With the number of questions already surrounding the election of 2008 because of voter registration fraud, adopting a system with such potential for mischief is a sure formula for controversy in future elections. Maryland voters can save themselves a peck of trouble by voting NO on Question 1.
Tomorrow in this time slot I’ll discuss Question 2, the referendum on video slot machines in Maryland.