Harsher penalties for election-related offenses

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A bill to raise criminal penalties for election-related offenses has been receiving a lot of backlash.

Since its approval from the Senate last month, there has been bipartisan support to remove it from legislation. For Howard County Democrat Chairman, Benjamin Zeichick, a particular part of the bill worries him most.

“I mean should you have to do paperwork to give people ride to the polls?”

Senate Bill 9 will make it harder for people to assist the disabled, elderly, or absentee voters to and from polling places. The bill would require drivers to fill out an affidavit, stating voters in the car need personal assistance. Drivers would also have to list names and addresses of those voters if they are not family. Zeichick says he believes it is a political motive.

“People who’re going to need a ride to the polls are more likely to be older who aren’t driving, college students who may not have a car on campus, disabled people… And these are the people that traditionally, conventional wisdom says, would tend to vote Democrat.”

He says he also fears it would lead to even lower voter turnouts. “There is a penalty if you do it wrong, And people may just decide let them find their own way to the poll, which may mean some people don’t vote.” 

Some argue it would help with voter fraud, but Zeichick disagrees. “It certainly doesn’t have to do with voter fraud, because bringing people to a polling place, they still have to go in and do everything they would have to do if they drove themself.”

And while he believes a law should never suppress legal voting rights, Representative Brooks Landgraf, says voting rights is a two way street.

“If you don’t have the right to vote, we want to make sure you don’t vote so you’re not diluting the pool of eligible voters.”


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