On August 12, while I was vacationing, I came across a story about a judge in Maryland ruling that early voting was not constitutional in Maryland. (A better version of the story can be found in the Baltimore Sun). As the story notes:
An Anne Arundel County circuit judge ruled yesterday that the General Assembly’s plan to allow voters to cast ballots in the week before Election Day is unconstitutional, a victory for the governor, who has made opposition to early voting a central issue in the fall campaign. Judge Ronald A. Silkworth ruled that the General Assembly’s plan violated the clear language of the Maryland Constitution, which says that citizens may vote in their local election districts on a specific day, the Tuesday after the first Monday in November.
Here is the actual text from the Maryland Constitution that is referred to, which is in Article 17, Section 2:
Except for a special election that may be authorized to fill a vacancy in a County Council under Article XI-A, Section 3 of the Constitution, elections by qualified voters for State and county officers shall be held on the Tuesday next after the first Monday of November, in the year nineteen hundred and twenty-six, and on the same day in every fourth year thereafter.
However, Article 1, Second 3 of the Maryland Constitution reads:
The General Assembly of Maryland shall have power to provide by suitable enactment for voting by qualified voters of the State of Maryland who are absent at the time of any election in which they are entitled to vote and for voting by other qualified voters who are unable to vote personally and for the manner in which and the time and place at which such absent voters may vote, and for the canvass and return of their votes.
Interestingly, Article 17, Section 9 provides what would seem to be a tie-breaker, stating:
In the event of any inconsistency between the provisions of this Article and any of the other provisions of the Constitution, the provisions of this Article shall prevail, and all other provisions shall be repealed or abrogated to the extent of such inconsistency.
Now the bizarreness of Article 17, Section 2 is monumental for obvious reasons, such as we don’t have quadrennial elections, we have biennial ones! Moreover, read literally–or to use the language the judge did, the plain text reading–Article 17, Section 2 should also ban all absentee voting, because those individuals are not voting a ballot on election day any more than an early voter is voting on election day. (And note, Article 17, Section 9 would invalidate the Article 1 allowance of absentee voting, read literally).
This ruling has been appealed. It will be interesting how it turns out.