HB 565 — Election Law – Voting Systems – Accessibility for Voters With Disabilities - Maryland Catholic Conference

HB 565 — Election Law – Voting Systems – Accessibility for Voters With Disabilities

Committee: House Ways and Means

Position: Support

The Maryland Catholic Conference (“Conference”) represents the public policy interests of the three Roman Catholic (arch)dioceses serving Maryland: the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the Diocese of Wilmington, which together encompass over one million Marylanders.

House Bill 565 encourages equality for all Maryland citizens by requiring each voter to use a ballot marking device that is accessible to voters with disabilities to vote at early voting centers and Election Day polling places and prohibits certain ballots from being set apart or distinguishable from a voter without a disability.

Prior to the 2016 election, all Maryland voters used the same method to mark their ballots. During the 2016 and 2018 elections, ballots cast by voters with disabilities were easily distinguished from the hand marked ballots cast by the majority of voters resulting in a loss of privacy and secrecy, both of which are fundamental aspects of voting rights in the United States.

According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 19.3 percent of adults in Maryland have some type of disability. Building inclusive, vibrant democracies depends on the active engagement of all citizens in public life. Maryland should seek practices and policies designed to identify and remove physical and communication barriers that could hamper the ability to have full participation in society.

For these reasons, the Conference urges a favorable report on House Bill 565.