On February 8, members of the Maryland General Assembly took steps to advance innovative voting reform legislation. The proposed legislation, which would authorize the Montgomery County Council to adopt ranked choice voting or approval voting in local elections, received unanimous approval from the Montgomery County delegation.
The bill, championed and popularized by grassroots reform organization and FairVote ally RCV for Maryland, will receive a hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee on Feb. 19.
Although a similar bill as introduced last year, cosponsor Sen. Cheryl Kagan said to Bethesda Magazine that some remarkably crowded and confusing 2018 races (highlights include the 33 contenders on the Democratic primary ballot for County Council at-large and the three-way general election race for county executive) led to an increase in awareness and support of ranked choice voting:
“It was overwhelming to most voters, and people wanted more options in their ability to show nuance with their ballots.”
The local option reform also won support from The Washington Post editorial board, which endorsed the legislation in an editorial, noting the “negative experience” of voters in Montgomery County last year and the fact that “ranked-choice voting is the antidote to ‘strategic voting.’”
The 24-0 backing from the county delegation is the first in the long road to approval. If the House Ways and Means Committee recommends the bill, which was amended last Friday to include stipulations for a public education campaign, it moves to a vote before the Maryland House of Delegates. If it passes the House of Delegates, it would move to the state Senate, with final approval from Gov. Larry Hogan.