Maryland Legislature Passes Automatic Voter Registration

March 28, 2018

If Signed by Governor, State Would Become Eleventh in the Nation to Approve AVR

New York, NY –The Maryland state legislature has approved a bill that would establish automatic voter registration, streamlining the process at the Motor Vehicle Administration and other government offices. The legislation passed the House today and the Senate earlier this month, and now moves to the governor’s desk. Maryland would become the 11th state to approve automatic voter registration, and the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU has long supported state legislators’ efforts to get this bill passed.

Automatic voter registration is an approach to registering eligible voters that saves money, increases the accuracy of voter rolls, and boosts voter participation. If Gov. Larry Hogan signs the bill, the Old Line State will join a diverse and bipartisan group of 10 other states and Washington, D.C. that are leading the national movement for automatic voter registration. So far in 2018, 15 states have introduced bills to implement or expand the policy, and an additional 10 had bills carry over from the 2017 legislative session for consideration in 2018. 

“I'm ecstatic that Maryland is taking this important step toward strengthening the right to vote,” said Delegate Eric Luedtke, lead sponsor of the House bill. “These four years of extraordinary work by a diverse coalition of legislators and advocates will make Maryland a national leader on breaking down barriers to voting.”

“With the passage of the Secure and Accessible Registration Act the state of Maryland has taken a profound step forward in expanding access to the ballot,” said Sen. Will Smith, lead sponsor of the Senate bill. “Creating an automatic registration program that links voting to everyday activities, like getting a driver’s license or collecting health benefits ensures greater voter participation which is the essential ingredient for any thriving democracy. I am proud to sponsor this legislation along with Delegate Luedtke and look forward to the positive effect it will have in giving more Marylanders access to the franchise.”

“Within a week, the General Assembly has vastly increased access to the franchise by passing both Election Day Registration and the Secure and Accessible Registration Act,” said Damon Effingham, acting director of Common Cause Maryland. "These actions show Maryland’s dedication to the foundational right to vote, and the broad support for protecting and expanding that right to all who are eligible.”

“Maryland’s move today is further proof that the momentum for automatic voter registration continues,” said Natalie E. Tennant, Manager for State Advocacy at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. “We urge Governor Hogan to sign the bill and not only expand access to voting, but make the process more practical and efficient in his state.”

Under the bill, 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.

A wide range of groups have worked together to advocate for Maryland’s Secure and Accessible Registration Act, including Everyone Votes Maryland, a coalition of good democracy, labor, grassroots, and civil rights groups. Their ranks include Common Cause Maryland, the Maryland NAACP, Indivisible Baltimore, Maryland Working Families, Maryland PIRG, Maryland ACLU, the Maryland State Education Association, League of Women Voters Maryland, and the Brennan Center for Justice.

 

For more information or to connect with a Brennan Center expert, contact Rebecca Autrey at rebecca.autrey@nyu.edu or 646-292-8316.

 

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