MARYLAND LAWMAKERS in recent years have made a number of significant changes to the state’s voter registration system to expand access and make it easier to vote. Individuals were allowed to register online , early voting was expanded from six to eight days , and voters could register or update their existing registration during that early voting period. The reforms have paid off, with nearly 20,000 Marylanders taking advantage of early voting same-day registration in 2016 when the law first took effect.
Still, it is estimated that more than 500,000 residents are eligible but not registered to vote. A critical reform that could help close that gap — letting people register or update their registration on Election Day — has been out of reach. The Maryland constitution presumes that registration is closed for a period of time before Election Day.
Maryland voters now have an opportunity to change that. Appearing on the Nov. 6 statewide ballot is a measure that would amend the constitution to allow the General Assembly to enact legislation permitting qualified voters to register and vote on Election Day.
Seventeen states and the District of Columbia allow same-day registration on Election Day , and their experience shows success in boosting voter participation. Among those who are particularly helped are voters with significant mobility issues, young people, people of color and low-income people. Fears of voter fraud have not been realized; voters are required to produce documents establishing their eligibility.
Democracy is best served when all voices are heard. Arbitrary deadlines that prevent many citizens from exercising a basic right for no good reason need to be eliminated. Political scientists who analyzed and ranked state election laws for the “time and effort” it takes to vote concluded that same-day registration offers the most effective means of getting more citizens to participate in elections. “The burden of getting reregistered to vote a predetermined number of days before the general election makes voting costlier,” the authors of Cost of Voting Index wrote in the Election Law Journal. “Allowing people to register at the actual polling station would do still more to reduce the cost of voting.”
We urge a yes vote on Question 2.