May 20, 2005

The Honorable Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr.
President of the Senate
State House
Annapolis, MD 21401

Dear Mr. President:

In accordance with Article II, Section 17 of the Maryland Constitution, today I have vetoed Senate Bill 287 - Voters Rights Protection Act of 2005.

Senate Bill 287 revises a number of the State's election procedures for challenging a voter's identity at the polling places and for counting provisional ballots by local boards of election. Provisional voting guarantees registered voters the ability to cast provisional ballots when there is confusion over issues of registration, identification, or voting rights at a polling place. Under present law, provisional ballots are issued to voters if they are first time voters that registered by mail with no proof of identity, if the voter had a change in name or address and the State Board of Elections is not notified by the election deadline, or if the vote is challenged by a poll watcher or challenger at the polling place.

In its current form, Senate Bill 287 expands the opportunity for individuals to abuse and negatively influence election outcomes. Under current law, provisional ballots are only eligible to be counted if cast in the correct jurisdiction. Senate Bill 287 was amended to require local boards of elections to accept provisional ballots cast by voters who do not reside in their respective precincts. Specifically, local boards must consider entire ballots but can only count votes cast for races in the jurisdiction where the voter resides. This broadening of the use of provisional ballots raises concerns about increased opportunities for voter irregularities.

Please be assured that the Administration is committed to instilling public confidence in elections and ensuring that all Marylanders have the opportunity to cast a ballot and have their ballot counted. To this end, I will appoint a commission to examine and evaluate the election law bills passed this session and make recommendations concerning our State's election process. I am confident such a commission will develop policies and procedures assuring that fair and accurate elections take place within the State.

For the above stated reasons, I have vetoed Senate Bill 287.

Very truly yours,
Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr.