WASHINGTON, D.C. — Last Friday, May 27, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) vetoed a bill that would have made it easier for election officials to process ballots and for voters to cure mistakes. House Bill 862, also called Senate Bill 163, would have allowed local election officials to begin counting mail-in ballots they receive up to eight business days before Election Day. Under current law, officials must wait until after Election Day to begin processing. H.B. 862 would have permitted election administrators to publish unofficial results as soon as the polls close on Election Day. The bill also created a mechanism for officials to notify voters of signature mistakes on mail-in ballots and give them an opportunity to cure.
In his veto message, Hogan praised the content of the bill — “early canvassing of absentee ballots would allow hard working election officials to get a much needed head start,” “precinct level reporting…would provide valuable information” and “the codification of a ballot curing process would allow voters an opportunity to correct an error” — but still rejected it. H.B. 862 would have allowed voters to cure mail-in ballots missing signatures in several ways — in person, by mail or with an image by email — and, according to Hogan, that process to verify signatures lacked “balance.” “For even the appearance of impropriety or the opportunity for fraud can be enough to undermine citizens’ confidence in their electoral system,” he wrote, vetoing the straightforward, common-sense legislation. The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D), said his veto simply means there will be unnecessarily unequal access for Maryland voters.