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Press release/statement

STATEMENT: Maryland's Voters Would Benefit from Same Day Registration; Bill Debate Starts Today

Turnout Increases of 4.3 Percent Likely Under Current Proposed Legislation

Annapolis, MD — In the historic 2008 presidential election, Maryland ranked 12th among states in voter participation by eligible residents. Voter participation in Maryland could significantly increase if the state passes Same Day Registration (SDR) into law, according to a new report published today by Demos and released in collaboration with ACLU of Maryland.

Same Day Registration significantly improves voter participation in states where it is law, and today the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee of the Maryland General Assembly, is holding a hearing on a new SDR bill, Senate Bill 417.

The new Demos study, Same Day Voter Registration in Maryland, underscores the importance of SDR for Maryland's voters. Authored for Demos by election policy experts R. Michael Alvarez from the California Institute of Technology and Jonathan Nagler of New York University, the report finds that with SDR Maryland could expect an overall boost in turnout, with larger increases for some demographic groups.

"Our report shows that adoption of a Same Day or Election Day Registration proposal could raise turnout in Maryland, overall, about 4.3 percent," said Nagler. "SDR can have a positive affect on turnout rates for all voters and would be especially helpful for young voters, and those who have recently moved."

Co-author Alvarez added, "One clear conclusion of voter turnout studies conducted over the last 35 years is that states that make registration and the voting process easier will increase participation among eligible voters. SDR is a clear example of that trend."

Key findings from the report:

  • Nationally, in 2008, SDR states had a voter turnout rate of 69 percent, versus 62 percent in states without SDR.
  • If Maryland had SDR, indicators point to a likely boost in voter participation overall by 4.3 percent.
  • Turnout among those aged 18 to 25 could increase by over 9 percent.
  • Turnout for those who have moved in the last six months could increase by over 7 percent.

"It's time to put voters first. Election Day Registration has worked for decades in several states and it could help enhance the effectiveness of our new early voting law and actually increase voter participation by thousands of individuals in Maryland by bringing new voters into our process," said House bill sponsor Delegate Kirill Reznik (D- Montgomery County) "Election Day Registration is a proven and effective way that we can expand citizen participation and give more Marylanders a voice in their democracy and achieve the desirable goal of increasing voter turnout.

Several leading voting rights advocates have weighed in on the pending SDR legislation:

Cynthia M. Boersma, Legislative Director Maryland ACLU added "Every eligible voter should be able to cast a meaningful ballot. In the 2008 election over 17,000 provisional ballots cast in Maryland were not counted; administrative accidents happen but that should not interfere with the right to vote. Same Day Registration will allow corrections at the polls and ensure that all eligible citizens are able exercise their right to vote, and have their ballot counted. It is time to pass SDR into law."

"SDR has been employed across the country, and is one of the pre-eminent reforms states are considering because it very clearly increases voter participation — and does so safely and in a cost effective manner" said Regina Eaton, Deputy Director of Demos' Democracy Program, who is submitting testimony for today's hearing.

Senate bill sponsor, Senator Mike Lenett (D- Montgomery County) stated that "Maryland should adopt this reform that is already successfully employed in many of its sister states, and share in the benefits of the more than 30 years of success those states have had with Same Day Registration."