Maryland Forward Party

Maryland Legislature Says NO to Ranked Choice Voting - An Update To 4 Bills We Endorsed

22 March, 2024

On March 18th, 2024, Maryland observed Crossover Day, marking the final opportunity for a bill to advance from its originating chamber to the other, though there is an exception to allow bills to still proceed beyond Crossover Day.

In this case, bills will encounter an additional challenge as they are referred to the rules committee, with one of its responsibilities assigning bills to their appropriate committee. But given the limited three week window between Crossover Day and the end of the Maryland General Assembly session, there's hardly any time for bills to go through the rules committee, subsequent hearings, and a vote for advancement. Essentially, any bill not passed by Crossover Day is effectively dead until the following session, and Maryland’s General Assembly convenes for only 90 consecutive days, starting in January and ending in April.

One of the bills that was passed by the House of Delegates, which received support testimony from the Maryland Forward Party, was House Bill 0347 - a bill that would establish requirements for the filling of a vacancy in the office of a Senator or Delegate in the General Assembly by a central committee of a political party under the Maryland Constitution relating applications, public notice, public meetings, and voting; and requiring a member of the central committee who has applied to fill the vacancy to recuse themselves from voting on the individual to fill the vacancy. According to Ovetta Wiggins, from the Washington Post, “In Maryland, nearly half of the state lawmakers from Maryland’s largest county and about 1 in 4 statewide were not originally elected to their seats…instead, vacancies in the General Assembly are filled by locally elected party central committees, which forward a candidate’s name to the governor for final approval.” We are looking forward to see what happens with the bill in the State Senate.

The other three house bills, however, for which we provided testimony in favor, HB 0257, HB 0423, and HB 0412, did not receive a vote out of committee. Among them was a bill that sought to authorize the Montgomery County Council to implement Ranked Choice Voting or Approval Voting in their county elections. Currently, Takoma Park is the only locality in Maryland to have Ranked Choice Voting as a voting method; however, the city is a municipality. The current law in Maryland for the election process is a uniform process.

In HB 0423’s Fiscal and Policy Note, it states that the current “State election law, which generally governs all elections except municipal elections (other than in Baltimore City), requires that the electoral process for primary elections, general elections, and special elections be uniform, except where it would be inappropriate, or where exceptions are provided for in the law.” Like Montgomery County, if there are any parts of Maryland, except municipalities, that want to use RCV or any type of new voting method, it needs to be passed by the General Assembly, and signed by the governor.

This is why voting reform, like Ranked Choice Voting, is a FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLE and TOP PRIORITY for the Maryland Forward Party because the current power dynamics mean that the party in power has no priority or incentive to pass laws, like RCV, that could potentially diminish their own authority or power. Because, why would they? RCV alters the political incentives, by incentivizing and compelling politicians to appeal to a wider spectrum of voters, guaranteeing fairer and more accurate representation, not just to their own voter base. Bills often fail to pass out of committees due to a variety of factors. However, if HB 0423 truly mattered to our elected representatives, then it should have been prioritized for consideration before crossover day. Regrettably, this wasn't the case.

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