A bill sent to Maryland Governor Larry Hogan on Wednesday would automatically register eligable citizens to vote. The bill passed Maryland’s House and Senate by vast margins.
— Delegate Eric Luedtke (@EricLuedtke) March 28, 2018
Automatic voter registration creates an opt-out system of registration as opposed to the opt-in system used by most states, where an eligible voter needs to fill out paperwork to be issued a registration card. In an opt-out system, that registration is assumed and intent not to register must be declared.
Issues of voter suppression exist nationwide, even in blue states, so appropriately the momentum for automatic registration has become a nationwide discussion.
Not only could this process add 22 million voters to the rolls if implemented nationwide, but it helps states keep clean and streamlined voter rolls by automatically updating a voter’s address after moving when they update any of a variety of other government agencies.
Maryland agencies that would automatically register voters include the Motor Vehicle Administration, the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, local social service agencies and the Maryland Transit Administration’s mobility office.
According to data from the Pew Charitable Trust, 25 percent of unregistered voters said they would register if motivated by a candidate and another 27 percent already intended to register but hadn’t gotten around to doing so. Automatic registration would enfranchise these groups who would otherwise not be able to cast their ballots. And 59 percent of rare or non-voters say they care a great deal who gets elected.
Based on that data, without any declared non-voters changing their minds, the potential growth in the American electorate is still 11.4 million, which is enough voters to sway the outcome of all but three presidential elections in American history.
Automatic voter registration is already practiced in Alaska, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and the District of Columbia but is just one of a large number of registration modernization efforts including pre-registration and online registration being implemented nationwide. And 25 more states are currently looking at passing automatic registration policies.
The nationwide introduction of automatic voter registration legislation comes as a stark contrast to a recent history of voter regulation, legalized armed intimidation and making elections easier to hack.
While it is likely to be signed into law, Governor Hogan’s office did not answer Grit Post’s calls, and calls and texts to Hogan’s cellphone were not returned.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.