Guest Blog from Damon Effingham, Executive Director of Common Cause Maryland
Every eligible Marylander who wants a say in our democracy should be able to cast a vote on Election Day. Yet we lag behind states across the country that push to make that a reality by offering a straightforward solution: Election Day Registration. Luckily, Marylanders will have the opportunity to change that this election year by voting yes on Question 2.
Election Day Registration (EDR) is pretty much as simple as it sounds – it would allow any eligible Marylander to register to vote at the polls on Election Day using the same documents required to register at any other time. Maryland has already implemented a similar, successful program that allows for same-day registration at early voting. During the 2016 elections, nearly 20,000 Marylanders used the Early Voting program to either change their address or register for the first time. That’s 20,000 Marylanders who were ensured the ability to cast their vote.
The largest share of voters, however, don’t vote during early voting – they vote on Election Day. 73% of in-person ballots cast were cast on Election Day during the 2018 primaries. By allowing for registration on Election Day, Maryland could greatly expand participation in our elections.
The 2018 primaries in Maryland gave us another prime example of how Election Day registration could be a boon for Maryland voters. After early voting had finished during this year’s primaries, the Motor Vehicle Administration revealed that they had failed to transfer more than 80,000 voting records to the State Board of Elections, forcing thousands of Maryland voters to vote by provisional ballot, which are time-consuming for election administrators and distrusted by the electorate. EDR could have significantly reduced the amount of provisional ballots after the 2018 primary snafu and could do so moving forward in each election.
Maryland would hardly be alone if it were to adopt Election Day Registration. Currently, a diverse array of 16 jurisdictions allow for EDR: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Vermont, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and Washington D.C. On average these states have seen a 5% increase in voter turnout percentage.
Particularly at a time when states like Texas and North Carolina are doing everything they can to block legitimate voters through voter roll purges, arbitrary ID requirements, and targeted poll closures, it is important for Maryland to show the country the power of open and fair elections. Our current, inconsistent policy leaves tens of thousands of potential voters out of our elections at the time when most Marylanders are paying most attention close to and on Election Day. We can, and should, change this, by voting for Question 2 to allow for Election Day Registration.
The views expressed here are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of Our Maryland or Our Maryland Education Fund.