During the Maryland’s 2018 legislative session, lawmakers are considering many bills that touch on how state elections should be conducted – which is appropriate given that Gov. Hogan and every seat in the General Assembly is up for election this year. The Republican governor and the Democratic-controlled legislature often have sharply differing views on legislation, and election bills are no exception.
Here are some of the high-profile election measures being discussed in the General Assembly this year:
Presidential Tax Returns
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump broke with decades of tradition in not releasing his income tax returns to the public. Under legislation approved by the Maryland Senate, any candidate who wants to be on the state ballot would be required to do so in the future. This bill would mandate that any presidential candidate would have to give the Maryland State Board of Elections a copy of his or her tax returns for the past five years prior to being certified for the ballot. The board would then release those returns to the public. Senators voted down an amendment to apply such a standard to state candidates. If this bill becomes law, there is likely to be a legal fight over concerns that it places requirements on presidential candidates that go beyond what the U.S. Constitution allows.
In 2015, Gov. Hogan put together a bipartisan commission to consider reforms to the state’s process for drawing district lines for Congress and the General Assembly. This commission produced a report that recommended a variety of ways to limit gerrymandering. These included empowering an independent commission to draw districts that are compact, composed of contiguous territory, and that respect county and city lines. Legislators failed to act on these recommendations when they were made in 2016. The governor continues to press for a constitutional amendment that would implement these changes.
During his State of the State Address, Gov. Hogan proposed limiting legislators to serving two four-year terms. He called on members of the Senate and House of Delegates to place the issue on the November ballot for voters to decide. Fifteen other states have term limits for legislators and the Maryland governor is limited to serving two terms. It seems unlikely that there is enough support from legislators to put this issue before voters, however.
Foreign Election Observers
As with the tax return bill, the 2016 election also influenced debate over legislation that would make it easier for foreigners to observe the conduct of Maryland elections. This bill would ease the process for international election observers to operate in Maryland. The bill easily passed committee, but when it reached the Senate floor there were concerns about foreign meddling. Senate President Mike Miller specifically brought up accusations of Russian interference in the 2016 election as a reason to oppose the bill. Eventually the Senate voted to recommit the bill to committee, effectively killing it.
Do you support term limits for legislators? What do you think about requiring presidential candidates to release their tax returns?