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Carroll County legislators join other Republicans to introduce package of election safeguard bills in General Assembly

Members of the Joint Republican Caucus in the Maryland General Assembly this week announced a package of legislation that they say will establish “common-sense safeguards” for Maryland’s elections processes. The bills have drawn both supporters and critics.

“We believe in free and fair elections for all Marylanders. We also believe that confidence in our elections and their validity is the basis of our civil society,” said House Minority Leader Del. Jason Buckel, at a virtual press conference on Thursday. “With mail-in ballots becoming a larger part of our elections process, this legislative package proactively establishes safeguards to ensure the integrity of our elections.”


Buckel is a Republican who represents District 1B in Allegany County.

Del. Haven Shoemaker, a Republican from District 5 in Carroll County, said the state’s mail-in ballot process is “lacking in adequate protections.”


But Corynne Courpas, a member of Carroll County’s Democratic Central Committee, said the bill package is trying to “solving a problem that does not exist.”

“There has been no indication of voter fraud in the whole country during the last election, especially not in Maryland,” she said. “There was no ‘disaster or chaos’ ... [2020] was the absolute safest and most secure election ever held.”

The Ballot Protection Act of 2022, or House Bill 939, would prohibit election officials at all levels of government from mass mailing unrequested ballots for any election year. House Bill 963 would require the State Board of Elections to use signature verification software for mailed-in ballots.

“Both of these common-sense bills are aimed at securing ballots cast by mail,” Shoemaker said. “We saw firsthand the disaster of mailing unrequested ballots in the 2020 election cycle and need to be proactive about preventing that chaos from happening again. We also need signature verification as a way to ensure that ballots are being returned by the right people.”

Courpas noted that providing mail-in ballots allowed more people to vote in the 2020 election, including her 88-year-old mother who wasn’t able to visit a polling place in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Voting by mail is the obvious solution to give all eligible Americans the opportunity to vote ... that’s the American way,” she said. “Questioning the security and validity of the election in Maryland is an affront to the hard-working people at the Board of Elections who are diligent to get things done properly.”

House Bill 1172 would remove party affiliation from absentee ballot envelopes.

“This bill passed in the House last year with bipartisan support and we hope this year it is taken up by the Senate,” said Del. William Wivell, a Republican from District 2A in Washington County. “Printing a voter’s party affiliation on a ballot envelope serves no purpose when it comes to processing mail-in ballots and voters deserve privacy.”


Senate Bill 738 would require the State Board of Elections to coordinate with local boards of elections during statewide elections to perform a sample audit of mail-in ballots to include signature verification. If a critical number of those sample ballots are rejected, it would trigger an audit of all the ballots in that jurisdiction. The bill also allows provisions for ballot “curing,” a practice that allows local boards of elections to contact voters whose ballots have a problem, such as a missing signature, and allows the voter to “cure” it so it may be counted. The bill also calls for the reporting and posting of audit results to the State Board of Elections.

Senate Minority Leader Sen. Bryan Simonaire, a Republican from District 31 in Anne Arundel County, said the audit of a sampling of mail-in ballots would allow a jurisdiction to identify any widespread voter fraud concerns.

“This is a common-sense and reasonable safeguard that allows us to identify potential issues and give voters the opportunity to ‘cure’ their ballot, if necessary,” Simonaire said.

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Senate Bill 532 would require voters to present identification at the polls to verify their name and mailing address with an election judge. Accepted forms include a current government-issued photo ID, utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or any other recent government document that shows the voter’s name and address, voter notification card or sample ballot.

If a voter cannot supply any accepted form of identification, or has had a recent address change, they may vote with a provisional ballot. SB532 also makes voting with a false form of identification grounds for prosecution for voter fraud.

“There are clearly trust issues with our elections. One of the most straightforward and common-sense ways to ensure fair, secure elections is for Maryland to join the vast majority of other states in requiring identification to vote,” said Sen. Justin Ready, a Carroll County Republican. “This proposal lays out several forms of identification that can be used to add a layer of assurance at the polls that people are who they say they are.”


Organizations that support voters rights, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, say requiring IDs to vote reduces turnout, citing a 2014 Government Accounting Office study that found strict photo ID laws reduce turnout by at least 2%. In additionally, the organization has said that people of color are disproportionally impacted by these laws because they are more likely to lack IDs.

Courpas also said signature verification software is unreliable and will only make it harder for eligible voters to vote.

Katherine Adelaide, a member of the Carroll County Republican Central Committee, said she agrees with the necessity of all five bills presented by the lawmakers, calling the package “common-sense” legislation.

“I especially appreciate the emphasis on provisional ballots in SB532 for voter ID to make sure that all eligible persons can vote,” Adelaide said.