Maryland Grassroots Groups Urge State Board of Elections to Authorize More Federal Agencies to Register Voters

Today is National Voter Registration Day

Everyone Votes Maryland and Demos today released a letter to state officials urging that the State Board of Elections authorize additional federal agencies to register voters. 

The groups’ letter references President Biden’s March 7, 2021 Executive Order directing the federal government to “to expand access to, and education about, voter registration.”

It suggests federal agencies that could provide voter registration services to Marylanders, including the Social Security Administration, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the United States Postal Service (USPS); and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, for new citizens.

The letter also identifies specific programs within the agencies that would regularly interact with unregistered Marylanders. “When more citizens are registered, more citizens will vote, and our democracy and our state will be stronger,” the letter concludes.

Maryland’s election laws authorize the State Board of Elections to designate federal agencies as voter registration agencies. The Board currently authorizes Armed Forces recruitment offices to serve as voter registration agencies.

“Maryland has made a lot of progress on expanding access to voting through reforms like same-day and automatic voter registration but we know there are still eligible voters in the state who face obstacles to voter registration. I spoke to a new citizen recently who didn’t realize she had to register to vote in our elections because that was not a process back in her country, said Common Cause Maryland Executive Director Joanne Antoine. “Federal designations at agencies like the USCIS will help close the gap in outreach to eligible voters, moving more people onto our voting rolls and hopefully into our voting booths.”

“Designating federal agencies in Maryland as voter registration sites is the single most significant step the Maryland Board of Elections can take to bring more Marylanders into the democratic process,” said Demos Senior Policy Analyst Laura Williamson. “The State Board can help mark National Voter Registration Day this week by taking this important step to get more Marylanders registered to vote.”

“Voting should be easy, accessible, and non-discriminatory,” said Maryland PIRG Director Emily Scarr. “The Maryland Board of Elections should expand voter registration opportunities by quickly designating more federal agencies in Maryland as voter registration entities.”

“The League supports expanding the number of federal agencies where people can conveniently register to vote, because increasing voter participation is one of our fundamental principles,” said Nancy Soreng, Co-President of the League of Women Voters of Maryland.

“People with disabilities frequently use and benefit from federal services and agencies.  Expanding opportunities for registration when people interact with federal agencies is a common sense approach to increase the full participation of people with disabilities in their most important civic right,” said David Prater, Managing Attorney of Disability Rights Maryland.

The Everyone Votes Maryland coalition worked to pass both Automatic Voter Registration and Election Day Registration (same-day voter registration) in 2018. In 2020, the coalition shifted its focus to ensuring Maryland voters could safely vote in the 2020 election. This year, Everyone Votes Maryland worked to expand access to mail in voting – secure drop boxes, permanent ballot list, mailing of ballot request forms, improved mail materials, and more. Read the coalition’s testimony on HB 1047 and HB 1048 here.

Read the letter released today here.