A Maryland Senate committee recently heard testimony on automatic voter registration, a reform that would register eligible citizens to vote when they do business with the Motor Vehicle Administration and certain social services agencies. Proponents say Maryland could dramatically boost its registration rate by half a million people. If Maryland enacts automatic registration, it would become the first state to extend the reform beyond offices that issue driver’s licenses. The legislation, introduced by Sen. Roger Manno (SB 350) and Del. Eric Luedtke (HB 1007), would put the responsibility on the government to sign up eligible individuals unless they opt out. A hearing on the House bill is set for March 3 in the Ways and Means Committee. Maryland would be at the forefront of a growing trend: overall, legislators in 25 states as well as the District of Columbia have similar legislation pending. Last year, Oregon and California became the first two states in the country to enact this reform.
“Government should be in the business of making people’s busy lives a little easier. That’s what universal voter registration is all about — making voting easier by removing barriers as we have done for centuries to enfranchise all Americans regardless of race, gender, religion and class,” Manno said on his bill.
“The Freedom to Vote Act will make our voter registration system both more convenient and more secure,” Luedtke said. “It breaks down artificial barriers to voting, and because of that strengthens our democracy.”