Resort Adopts New Absentee Vote Policy

OCEAN CITY – The city has adopted the state’s “No Excuse” policy when it comes to applying for an absentee ballot.

City Clerk Kelly Allmond continued a discussion at this week’s meeting that started last year when Councilwoman Margaret Pillas asked for a discussion on simplifying the absentee ballot process for municipal voters.

Last November Allmond advised the council that the state adopted the “No Excuse” policy for absentee voting and presented the council with two options, either make no change to the town’s code and continue requiring applicants to provide a reason for voting absentee or adopt the “No Excuse” policy with an ordinance amending. At that time, the council questioned the “No Excuse” policy and postponed the discussion.

“Since then, what I have learned is that the state has fully embraced the “No Excuse” policy, and an excuse is not required even through the emergency period,” Allmond said this week. “That would mean that anybody could come in and apply for an absentee ballot and vote in person up to and through the election, until 5 p.m.”

Councilman Joe Hall made the motion to adopt the “No Excuse” policy.

“I think it does come with new challenges for the clerk’s office but the direction of the council has been to make the accessibility to voting convenient and as easy as possible, and I think we should follow the direction of the state and county,” he said.

Councilman Brent Ashley agreed and called it a “no brainer.”

“Our recent discussions have been about getting every voter out and everyone should get the chance to vote,” he said.

Councilman Doug Cymek was concerned over City Hall becoming a second polling place in Ocean City if voters are allowed to come to City Hall on Election Day to file for an absentee ballot and vote on the spot.

“I would ask the council to consider cutting this off at the close of business on Monday evening as opposed to carrying it all the way through on Tuesday [Election Day],” he said.

Councilwoman Mary Knight agreed.

“If it is more convenient and a beautiful day to walk to City Hall versus getting in my car and trying to find a parking place at the convention center, that is my concern,” she said.

Joe Hall asserted the best way would be to adopt the same policy as the state and county to remain consistent and eliminate confusion.

“This isn’t just about coming to the City Clerk’s Office and voting, this is also about equally registered voters utilizing this as a convenience … it is going to be a challenge and that is the reality but I would stand by the fact that we need to keep our policy consistent,” he said.

The “No Excuse” policy passed in a 5-2 vote with Cymek and Knight opposed.