VRM in the States: Maryland
On April 26, 2016, Gov. Larry Hogan signed legislation into law that will enhance the state’s existing electronic and online voter registration systems, providing a key building block for automatic voter registration. The Maryland General Assembly passed the legislation with bipartisan support on April 11, 2016.
Maryland already has electronic voter registration at the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA), which allows eligible voters to register to vote at the same time they do business with the MVA, with voter information transferred electronically to election officials. The new law expands electronic registration to a number of agencies that are already required to register voters—such as the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, local departments of social services, and mobility certification offices. It also expands voter registration to the state’s One-Stop Career Centers, which help match Maryland job seekers with businesses looking to hire. Brennan Center research indicates that these measures will increase registration rates, reduce costs, and increase the accuracy of the voter rolls.
The law also will likely increase registration through Maryland’s existing online voter registration portal by requiring the websites of the Departments of Veteran Affairs, Labor, and Natural Resources to provide links to the portal. The state’s public universities will also provide links to the online voter registration portal when students register for coursework. The law builds in accountability measures by requiring state agencies to produce progress reports for the legislature on compliance with the bill’s requirements.
Prior Advances in Voter Registration Modernization
This reform builds upon Maryland’s existing voter registration modernization efforts:
- Electronic Voter Registration: Maryland launched electronic voter registration at MVA offices in 2011. Voters input their responses electronically and sign an electronic pad. County supervisors receive email notifications of new registrations every morning.
- Online Voter Registration: Maryland launched online voter registration through the Board of Elections in 2012. Eligible citizens with a state driver’s license or non-driver ID can use the system to register to vote and update their registration information.
- Same Day Registration: Maryland implemented limited same day registration in 2013. Voters can register and vote on the same day during the early voting period, though they cannot do so on Election Day.
- Portability: Registered voters who have moved within the state at least 21 days before an election and have not updated their registration can, on Election Day, vote a provisional ballot at their new polling place. Those who have moved within the state fewer than 21 days before an election can cast either a regular ballot at their old polling place or a provisional ballot at their new polling place.
- Electronic Pollbooks: Maryland employs electronic pollbooks statewide.
Gains from Voter Registration Modernization in Maryland
The steps Maryland has taken thus far have yielded increases in voter registration and financial benefits for the state. For example:
- During a March 2013 interview with Brennan Center staff, Maryland election officials reported saving money from online registration because fewer employees need to be hired for data entry and fewer paper applications have to be ordered.
- Maryland implemented online voter registration as a part of a larger package of improvements, including polling-place look-up tools, that cost less than $500,000.
- Maryland observed a spike in its registration rate at MVA offices after implementing electronic registration. Between November 2008 and November 2010, the two years preceding the introduction of electronic registration, MVA offices produced 61.2% of all new voter registrations. That figure rose to 80% between November 2012 and November 2014, the first time the state had electronic registration during the run-up to a midterm election.
- Between November 2012 and November 2014, 4.5% of all new voter registration applications were received online.