In April 2018, Maryland became the eleventh state to approve automatic voter registration. Gov. Larry Hogan declined to either sign or veto an AVR bill the legislature had passed by wide margins, allowing the bill to become law without the governor's signature. Under the new policy, Marylanders will be automatically registered to vote when they interact with state agencies like the Motor Vehicle Administration, the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, local departments of social services, and the Mobility Certification Office in the Maryland Transit Administration. Individuals will be able to opt-out if they choose. The state is scheduled to implement the system by July 2019. Learn more about automatic registration here.
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.
- Preregistration: 16- and 17-year-olds can preregister to vote. Those who preregister can vote once they turn 18 without needing to re-register.
- 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 2014 and November 2016, the state received 75,245 new voter registration applications through its online portal.
- In the November 2016 general election, 7,884 voters registered on the same day during the early voting period.