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Delaware Inspires Maryland to Modernize its Voter Registration System

Encouraging news out of Maryland: the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) has announced that it intends to automate the voter registration system at MVA offices.

  • Nhu-Y Ngo
March 28, 2011

Encouraging news out of Maryland: the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) has announced that it intends to automate the voter registration system at MVA offices.

A few weeks ago, we wrote about Maryland’s failings when registering voters at MVA offices.  Twenty-five percent of citizens who attempted to register to vote at MVA offices in Maryland in the past four years were not added to the voting rolls, The Baltimore Sun reported.  The Sun also reported that during that period, 120,000 citizens who submitted change-of-address information at the MVA did not have their voting records updated.  And alarmingly, The Sun noted that officials at the Maryland State Board of Elections estimate that about 622,165 Maryland residents who are qualified to vote are not registered to do so.

The MVA conceded that their registration process “could be improved,” and paid a visit to Delaware, which boasts one of the most effective electronic motor voter systems in the nation, known as “e-Signature.”  Eligible motorists at Delaware motor vehicle offices (DMVs) fill out and sign registration forms on a touch pad, and the information is electronically submitted to election officials.  By improving its electronic voter registration system at DMVs, the state saved over $200,000 a year from its election budget.  Maryland officials, who once said the process of automation would not be feasible, “concluded that it would be relatively painless for Maryland to copy” the Delaware system, said The Sun.

Now, Delaware is planning to automate voter registration at public service agencies.  The new process will be modeled completely after e-Signature, says State Election Commissioner Elaine Manlove.  Delaware’s public service agencies do an annual intake, and clients will be asked to register to vote during the process.

When asked about why Delaware decided to further modernize its registration system, Commissioner Manlove said that the Department of Health and Social Services had approached her about implementing e-Signature at their offices, and that it “just seemed like the next logical step.”  The program will be implemented one site at a time over the next few weeks and reaction has been positive so far.  “When Health and Social Services came to us to ask when they could get e-sig, I knew we were on the right track!” said Commissioner Manlove.

As Delaware and many other states have demonstrated, modernizing the voter registration system is both easy to do and enormously beneficial.  Maryland will realize this as well once they move their systems into the Twenty-First century.