Given the threat that Trump’s Voter Fraud Commission poses to Maryland voters, it has never been more important to protect and expand voting rights in Maryland. Indivisible groups including Indivisible Baltimore, Indivisible Towson, and Indivisible Howard County have teamed up with Common Cause Maryland to push for expanded voting rights by supporting bills for Election Day Registration (EDR) and Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) in the upcoming legislative session.
On Tuesday, December 5th, representatives from a number of local Indivisible groups joined Common Cause Maryland, ACLU Maryland, and the Everyone Votes Maryland Coalition along with several state legislators to publicly launch the effort to expand voting rights in Maryland at a press conference at Lawyer’s Mall in Annapolis. We’d like to thank all the legislators who came to express their support, especially Delegates Brooke Lierman (District 46) and Mary Washington (District 43) from Baltimore City.
Why is protecting and expanding voting rights so important now?
The Trump administration is mounting an extensive attack on voting rights. In addition to falsely claiming that millions of fraudulent votes were cast against him in 2016, the administration has taken several alarming steps towards voter suppression:
- Trump’s “Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity,” led by notorious vote suppressor Kris Kobach, requested that states, including Maryland, turn over voters’ personal data.
- The Department of Justice requested that election officials from 44 states, including Maryland, provide detailed information about how they are maintaining their voter rolls.
- These demands were widely seen by voting rights experts as a prelude to voter purges.
- Kobach’s Interstate Voter Crosscheck Program, whose alleged purpose is to rid the voter rolls of duplicative registrations, has 200 false positives for every real double registration. The Program disproportionately disenfranchises voters of color, who are more likely than white voters to have common names.
By making it easier for Marylanders to vote, Maryland state laws providing for EDR and AVR would help protect us from these voter suppression tactics.
There are two approaches to protecting and expanding voter rights that will be considered by the Maryland legislature in 2018: Election Day Registration (EDR) and Automatic Voter Registration (AVR).
Election Day Registration (EDR)
- Fourteen states and Washington, D.C. allow voters to register at the polls on Election Day, but Maryland voters must register at least 21 days before Election Day.
- This restriction lowers voter turnout by preventing voters from registering when they are most likely to be politically engaged.
- In 2014, voter turnout in states with EDR was more than 10% higher than in states without EDR.
- EDR is especially effective at improving turnout among young voters, voters of color, newly naturalized citizens, and voters with lower incomes and levels of education.
- EDR is now a bill in the Maryland General Assembly. It would allow Maryland voters who are unfairly purged from the rolls to re-register and vote on Election Day, without having to cast provisional ballots.
Automatic Voter Registration (AVR):
- Ten states and Washington, D.C. have approved AVR.
- In 2016, after becoming the first state to implement AVR, Oregon had the largest increase in voter turnout of any state in the country.
- The Oregon law greatly increased the number of young voters, voters of color, and low-income voters.
- This year’s AVR bill in Maryland – the Secure and Accessible Registration Act (SARA) – would simply change voter registration at the MVA and other state agencies from an opt-in to an opt-out system. Clients at these agencies who are eligible Maryland voters would be asked, “Would you like to opt out of registering to vote?” instead of being asked, “Would you like to register to vote?”
What can you do to help support expanding voter rights in Maryland? Call your legislators! Click here for more information.