Bill Could Shorten 7th District Ballots After Special Primary

    Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George's) has been pushing combined reporting legislation for years. It's finally gaining some traction. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

    An emergency bill making its way through the Maryland Senate could shorten the ballots for voters in the 7th congressional district this spring.

    Senate Bill 251 from Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George’s), chairman of the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, would add a temporary provision to state law allowing unsuccessful candidates in the special primary election to replace the late Rep. Elijah Cummings (D) to remove their names from the General Election primary ballot.

    The special primary election is set for Feb. 4. The special general election is scheduled for April 28 to coincide with the regular 2020 primaries in the state.

    That means voters on April 28 could vote for one candidate to win the special election, while voting to advance a different candidate through the primary in the regular primary election.

    There are 32 candidates in the special primary election and 29 declared candidates so far in the regular primary. (The filing deadline for the regular election is Friday.)

    “We essentially could have someone hold the seat for six months or seven months and then they’d be replaced in the traditional election. That is going to complicate voters enough,” Pinsky said Wednesday.

    Pinsky’s bill would give unsuccessful candidates two days after the special election to withdraw from the traditional general election.

    “If people come in 28th in the special election and they see no reason to run in the second primary and the list is winnowed down from 32 to 15, we think it would be better for the voters,” he said.

    That provision of the bill would be active only for this election year and terminates six months after the bill is enacted.

    The bill was primarily introduced to correct inconsistencies between the special election timeline set in state statute and federal requirements in the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, which sets dates for the mailing of absentee ballots.

    Those changes would continue for future elections if adopted by the General Assembly.

    Pinsky’s bill is filed as emergency legislation, which means it would take effect immediately if signed by the governor after passing both chambers. After a brief hearing Wednesday afternoon, the measure was passed unanimously out of the committee and will be on the Senate floor Thursday morning.

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    Danielle E. Gaines
    Danielle Gaines most recently worked for Bethesda Beat covering Montgomery County. Previously, she spent six years at The Frederick News-Post as the paper’s principal government and politics reporter for half that time, covering courts and legal affairs before that. She also reported for the now-defunct The Gazette of Politics and Business in Maryland and previously worked as a county government and education reporter at the Merced Sun-Star in California’s Central Valley.