Progressive Maryland backs Assembly bills to widen and strengthen access to voting

In these difficult times when access to voting is under attack from the Right – especially access for poor people and those of color – some good pushback bills are in the General Assembly that deserve support. They will expand access to voting for all Marylanders.

Below is the testimony on two of them by Progressive Maryland (through Jennifer Dwyer, PM policy and legislative director) on one and by Common Cause with endorsement from Progressive Maryland on the second. The League of Women Voters, ACLU, PIRG, Brennan Center, SEIU, Sierra Club, Black Girls Vote and other organizations also signed on to the bill proposing election-day registration.

In these difficult times when access to voting is under attack from the Right – especially access for poor people and those of color – some good pushback bills are in the General Assembly that deserve support. They will expand access to voting for all Marylanders.

Below is the testimony on two of them by Progressive Maryland (through Jennifer Dwyer, PM policy and legislative director) on one and by Common Cause with endorsement from Progressive Maryland on the second. The League of Women Voters, ACLU, PIRG, Brennan Center, SEIU, Sierra Club, Black Girls Vote and other organizations also signed on to the bill proposing election-day registration.


Testimony in Support of “The Secure and Accessible Registration Act”

Before the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee February 8, 2018

Thank you for the opportunity to testify on SB 1048

SB 1048 would automatically register eligible Marylanders to vote as well as automatically update their voter registrations whenever they go to the MVA, the MTA, local social service agencies, and the Maryland healthcare exchange. This method of registering voters not only saves the above agencies and Maryland residents time and money, but also increases voter roll accuracy and boosts efficiency at the polls on Election Day and with the State Board of Elections by spreading out voter registrations more evenly throughout each year.

ballot_box.jpgSARA would also increase voter participation.  Oregon, the first state to implement a similar registration system, experienced the highest increase in voter turnout in the country between 2012 and 2016. By adopting SARA, Maryland would be joining a diverse array of states across that country that have already implemented automatic voter registration, including Alaska, Georgia, Colorado, and Illinois, where the legislature adopted the program unanimously.

We urge a favorable report on SB 1048

*Progressive Maryland also testified last week in support of the House version of this bill, HB 152, on Feb. 6.

 

Testimony in favor of HB 0532, “Elective Franchise –Registration and Voting at Precinct Polling Place”

Before the House Ways and Means Committee February 13, 2018

The groups above [which include Progressive Maryland] support HB 0532, which would allow Marylanders to register to vote or update their registration address on Election Day through a process known as Election Day Registration (EDR).  EDR would build on Maryland’s already successful implementation of Registration at Early Voting, creating a unified and simple way to help ensure that every Marylander who wants to have their voices heard in our elections can do so.

Currently, Marylanders can update their registration addresses, or register for the first time during the Early Voting Period.  2016 was the first year of implementation for this new program, and it was a huge success.  Nearly 20,000 Marylanders availed themselves of the program, meaning that 20,000 more Marylanders were able to make their voices heard during the course of the Primary and General elections.  Allowing voters the ability to also register on Election Day would only build on those gains.

The gains from EDR are particularly strong in communities most likely to move – voters of color, young voters, low income voters and recently enfranchised Marylanders.  These voters are more likely to have moved between election cycles, thus necessitating an updated registration.  Instead of forcing these voters to fill out provisional ballots, which are more difficult to count administratively, EDR provides the opportunity to conveniently update their registration and allow them to vote normally.

Maryland would hardly be alone if it were to adopt Election Day Registration.  Currently, a diverse array of 16 jurisdictions allow for EDR: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Vermont, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and Washington D.C.  On average these states had 11% more participation in 2014 elections than those without EDR.

Common Cause Maryland supports any measure that increases the ability for Marylanders to participate in the democratic process – EDR does just that.  For this reason, we ask the committee to give EDR a favorable report.

*This testimony will be delivered again at a hearing scheduled tomorrow (Feb. 15) before the Senate Educational, Health and Environmental Affairs committee on the paired Senate bill, SB 0594, sponsored by Prince George’s Senator Paul Pinsky.


How we, Progressive Maryland, identify ourselves in testimony: “Progressive Maryland is a grassroots, nonprofit organization of more than 100,000 members and supporters who live in nearly every legislative district in the state. In addition, there are dozens affiliated community, faith, and labor organizations across the state that stand behind our work. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families in Maryland.”