Rishi Shah, Maryland PIRG Advocate
Testimony for HB0538
Ways and Means Committee, February 15, 2022
Voters’ Rights Protection Act of 2022
Maryland PIRG is a state based, non-partisan, citizen funded public interest advocacy organization with grassroots members across the state and a student funded, student directed chapter at the University of Maryland College Park. For fifty years we’ve stood up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society.
We support HB 538 to increase the number of days during which early voting sites are open through the Sunday, rather than the Thursday, before the election. Early voting centers play a crucial role in our elections, with 36 million people voting at an early voting site in 2020. Increasingly, voters across Maryland are opting to cast their ballots not on Election Day itself, but in the days before. In 2020, nearly 1 million Marylanders voted in person at an early voting site.
For many Marylanders, early voting centers provide necessary flexibility for those who have work or other obligations on Election Day, and research shows that additional early voting sites lead to increased turnout.
In the 2020 presidential election, Maryland saw long lines at many of these voting centers. Marylanders who can’t wait in these lengthy lines on weekdays – whether that’s due to work, childcare, or any number of factors – should have the chance to vote on the Friday or weekend before Election Day. For members of the public who cannot vote on weekdays and aren’t as heavily engaged in politics as you or I, it is not evident that the only chance to vote on a Saturday or Sunday is two weekends before Election Day.
HB745 is a logical response to growing interest in early voting. It addresses growing concerns over limited access to the ballot box, and will help ensure all eligible Marylanders are able to participate in voting.
We respectfully request a favorable report.