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Press release/statement

Civic Engagement Groups Respond to the Passage of Maryland’s Freedom to Vote Act

Demos, the Center for Popular Democracy, Maryland Working Families, Casa de Maryland and Maryland Communities United encourage broad and inclusive access to voting

April 12, 2016 (Annapolis, MD) – A voting rights coalition recognized the Maryland General Assembly for passing the Freedom to Vote Act, legislation that will ease the path to voting while cutting red tape for Maryland citizens. The coalition includes partners such as Demos, the Center for Popular Democracy, Maryland Working Families, Casa de Maryland and Maryland Communities United.

“Demos recognizes the Maryland General Assembly for continuing to push forward common‑sense practices of voter modernization that are being embraced around the country,” said Damon Daniels, Campaigns and Outreach Associate for Demos.

“Maryland has taken a step forward today. The legislation will modernize the voting process and work to make Maryland’s democratic system more accessible and inclusive,” said Emma Greenman, Director of Voting Rights and Democracy at the Center for Popular Democracy.

The coalition partners said that while this bill expands voter registration opportunities for Marylanders, they are disappointed that Automatic Voter Registration (AVR), proposed in this measure and in Senate Bill 350, was excluded from the final legislation. The AVR provision called for the Maryland State Board of Elections to use relevant information provided to government agencies to automatically add eligible individuals to the voter rolls, unless they declined to be registered.

“Automatic Voter Registration could potentially add tens of thousands of newly eligible voters into Maryland elections, emphasizing an enhanced and inclusive approach to increasing voter participation while also protecting the rights of those who choose to refrain from the process. Its strength lies in its potential to transfer the responsibility of voter registration to the government, saving time and money while also providing the strongest opportunity to address current race and income gaps in voter turnout,” said Charly Carter, Executive Director of Maryland Working Families.

“We are grateful for the work of Senator Roger Manno and Delegate Eric Luedtke for introducing Automatic Voter Registration, and look forward to working with Maryland leadership and the Board of Elections to assess ways that we can continue to improve voter access in Maryland, especially for those who remain underrepresented in our electorate,” said Yaheiry Mora, Advocacy and Elections Specialist of Casa de Maryland. “We hope that Maryland will lead the national effort to let all eligible voters participate in the political process, and urge Gov. Larry Hogan to sign the Freedom to Vote Act into law and demonstrate the importance all elected officials should place on promoting fair and inclusive elections.”