Maryland PIRG statement on voter modernization reforms

Media Contacts

We applaud the Maryland General Assembly for bold action

Maryland PIRG

Today, the Maryland House of Delegates passed SB1048, the Secure and Accessible Registration Act (SARA), a form of Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) with a bipartisan vote of 93-46. Having passed both houses with a veto proof majority, the bill now moves to Governor Hogan’s desk for his signature. This follows after both chambers passed HB532, a constitutional amendment to enable Election Day registration in Maryland. HB532 is not subject to a veto from the Governor.

Statement from Maryland PIRG Director Emily Scarr:

We applaud the Maryland General Assembly for taking bi-partisan action this week to pass automatic voter registration (AVR) and to move towards Election Day registration by sending a constitutional amendment to the voters for approval.

AVR will increase voter registration, make our voter rolls more accurate and secure, and decrease the number of people who need to register with paper forms. For those who fall through the cracks or need to update their registrations, Election Day registration will ensure all eligible voters can participate on Election Day and help decrease the number or provisional ballots cast and to be counted. 

By modernizing our voter registration process with these reforms we can encourage first time and young voters, increase civic participation; and, build a more functional democracy.

Many Marylanders, especially young Marylanders, are not participating in elections. In 2014, only 42% of youth between the ages of 18-24 were registered to vote before the election, compared to 74% of over 25-year-olds.  Numerous studies have shown that voting is habit forming, and youth who vote are more likely to become life-long voters. Likewise, young people who are registered to vote turn out in high numbers, very close to the rate of older voters. The voter registration gap in young people is a driving force in low youth voter participation.

The Secure and Accessible Registration Act, a form of Automatic Voter Registration (AVR), will work hand in hand with early voting and Election Day registration to streamline the registration process, seamlessly registering voters and updating voter registrations when Marylanders interact with certain agencies.

Under existing law, when an individual applies for a driver’s license or state ID, or interacts with certain state agencies, they are asked if they want to register to vote and they must affirmatively take action to fill out a voter registration application at the agency, even if the agency already has the necessary information for a completed application. AVR changes this process from opt-in to opt-out. That is, when an eligible citizen interacts with the one of these state agencies, the agency will use the existing information they have to complete a voter registration application for the individual to sign, unless the individual declines registration.

We congratulate the Maryland General Assembly on their progress this week to ensure all eligible voters can make their voices heard on Election Day.

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