Talbot County, on the eastern shore of Maryland, is one of only a handful of places in America that prohibits the selling or providing of alcoholic beverages on an election day during the hours when the polls are open.
The picturesque waterfront county is named for Lady Grace Talbot, the sister of Lord Baltimore and wife of Sir Robert Taylor, whose family was an owner of Sean’s in Athlone, the oldest pub in Ireland (that was purchased by Boy George in 1987). And while the founding date of Talbot County is lost to history, it existed before February 12, 1661, when then is record that a writ was issued to its sheriff.
The rural jurisdiction does not appear to have any history of election day carousing or the like.
But since the repeal of prohibition, an alcoholic beverages licensee may not sell or provide any alcoholic beverages on an election day during the hours when the polls are open in any election district or precinct where an election is being held.
A person who violates the provision is subject to a fine of between $50 and $100 for each offense. However, on the day of an election, a restaurant that holds an alcoholic beverages license may provide alcoholic beverages for consumption only on the licensed premises.
This vestige of 19th century corrupt political bosses trading votes for free booze, which seems strikingly unsuitable post Citizens United, was also the law in the City of Annapolis until the Maryland legislature repealed it for that city in 2015, after it was noticed that the statewide repeal of many years before had failed to include that capitol city.
Of note, in Allegany County, Maryland a licensee may not sell or provide any alcoholic beverages on the day of any election during the hours the polls are open if the licensed premises is used as a polling place. But that appears to be a modern compromise to allow rural polling places in retail establishments.
The economic impact, if any, of this law is not clear, but Talbot County residents do consume more than their share of alcoholic beverages. In fact, the 37,512 County residents consumed 5.89 gallons of wine each, the highest per capita consumption of any Maryland county. Residents could buy their wine before the polls open or drive to Queen Anne’s County to the north?
Apparently none of the County’s 137 liquor licenses sought to have the prohibition added to the 2015 repeal for the City of Annapolis.
But with election day 2018 approaching, there has been discussion led by a group of liquor licensees in Easton, the cosmopolitan County seat, about repealing the antiquated election day booze ban in the legislature next year.