Maryland Moves toward Modernization
- jennifer bevan dangel, damon effingham
MD Coalition for the Freedom to Vote
We applaud the General Assembly for passing legislation to improve upon Maryland’s voter registration system. With the Freedom to Vote Act, our state expands voter registration opportunities to nearly every state agency. The move towards modernized, online or electronic voter registration systems – and away from outdated paper-based models – will save the state both time and money, making this a win for both voters and administrators alike.
The Freedom to Vote Act will give many agencies already offering voter registration services a technological upgrade, reducing costs and increasing the accuracy of the voter rolls. The Act will also expand registration opportunities to the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Natural Resources, and One-Stop Career Centers. Through these outreach and modernization efforts, Maryland is making great strides toward ensuring that eligible citizens throughout the state have their voices heard in our elections.
While this bill improves upon our current system, we believe Maryland needs to go further toward ensuring every citizen has the opportunity to exercise his or her right to vote. We are disappointed the automatic voter registration provision, proposed in SB350 and HB 1007, was dropped by the Senate. This provision would have allowed the State Board of Elections to use government agency records to add eligible individuals to the voter registration rolls, unless they declined. We believe this measure alone could have brought tens of thousands of new eligible voters into our elections process.
We look forward to working with the leadership and the Board of Elections to assess ways in which we can continue to improve access to voting for Maryland citizens, especially for those who face historic barriers and continue to be underrepresented in our electorate. It is our hope that Maryland will be a leader in the national effort to reach full participation by all eligible voters.
The Maryland legislation was supported by a broad coalition of statewide and national advocacy groups, including Common Cause/Common Cause Maryland, PIRG/Maryland PIRG, League of Women Voters Maryland, Maryland Working Families, Communities Unite, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, SEIU, Demos, Democracy Initiative, Sierra Club, Center for Popular Democracy, CASA of Maryland, SIX Action, Progressive Maryland, and Project Vote.