PoliticsWilliam J. Ford

Md. Lawmaker Pushes to Ease Restrictions for Independent Voters

ANNAPOLIS — The November election in Maryland was marked by long lines and confusion at some polls.

Today, state lawmakers and voting advocates want to ensure not only smoother elections in the future, but also the opportunity for more people to simply vote.

Del. Lily Qi (D-Montgomery County), an Asian American who immigrated from China and celebrated 30 years as a U.S. citizen Friday, Feb. 22, has proposed legislation to allow unaffiliated or independent voters to partake in future primary elections by allowing them to change their political affiliation to either Democrat or Republican.

“This country has given me so much,” said Qi (D-Montgomery County), who was elected in November. “Voting is one of those great Democratic processes. More immigrants here [in Maryland] should be allowed to vote anytime.”

According to documents Qi presented at her first bill hearing last week before the House Ways and Means Committee, unaffiliated voters in Maryland increased by 97 percent between 2002 and 2018. In comparison during that period, Democratic voters increased by 43 percent and Republicans by 24 percent.

In total, there are more than 700,000 unaffiliated voters in the state. For instance, Frederick County ranked number one with almost 24 percent of unaffiliated voters. Near the bottom sat Prince George’s County (12 percent), which has the highest number of Democrats in the state.

“This is a bill that is nonpartisan,” said Daniel Koroma, a member of the African Immigrant Caucus of Silver Spring who supports the legislation. “This is a bill that will make everybody enfranchised of their vote.”

Katherine Berry, election director in Carroll County, disagrees. Berry, who also serves as co-chair of the state’s Association of Election Officials, said the change could skew voter registration statistics and create problems at polling precincts to order ballots.

“If being able to change party affiliation is only opened to unaffiliated voters, we may be opening an unintended consequence of voters changing their party to unaffiliated just so they can choose which ballot they want in a primary election because it’s most convenient for them,” she said.

Alisha Alexander, elections administrator for Prince George’s, said in an email Thursday, Feb. 21 the legislation wouldn’t have a significant impact in the county.

“Since unaffiliated voters can currently vote in the Board of Education race, we’d just have to devise a formula to determine how many of them would vote using the Democratic and Republican ballots,” she said. “As a side note, an overwhelming majority of the unaffiliated voters who vote during the primary election vote a party ballot [provisionally].”

Qi said the state Board of Elections rejected nearly 4,300 provisional ballots from independent voters in last year’s primary election “due to people voting for wrong party ballot.”

The election board website says the deadlines for next year’s presidential election are April 7, 2020, for registering or changing party affiliation before the primary and Oct. 13 to register for the general election.

Some lawmakers such as Del. Kevin Hornberger (R-Cecil County) questioned why the state doesn’t just have open primaries altogether, a notion that Qi shot down.

The National Conference of State Legislatures list Maryland as one of nine states with closed primaries, which doesn’t allow unaffiliated voters to participate except to choose nonpartisan positions such as a school board candidate.

“An open primary is a very big move,” Qi said. “It is a major change our state isn’t ready for.”

Tags
Show More

William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Washington Informer Newspaper, 3117 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave SE, Washington, DC, 20032, http://www.washingtoninformer.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

Back to top button

Subscribe today for free and be the first to have news and information delivered directly to your inbox.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Washington Informer Newspaper, 3117 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave SE, Washington, DC, 20032, http://www.washingtoninformer.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact
Close

Adblock Detected

Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker