Posted by Pauline Lejeune on February 26, 2010
Yesterday, the Maryland Senate Education, Health & Environmental Committee held a public hearing on several election bills. FairVote’s Right to Vote Director Adam Fogel testified in favor of two of the bills that are sponsored by Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-20):
- SB 292, which will set a uniform voter registration age of 16
- SB 293, which will establish a permanent absentee ballot list.
Youth preregistration bills have been introduced and debated in the Maryland Legislature for the last three years now, as part of policies designed to encourage voter registration and participation. As Adam Fogel stated in his testimony, “Maryland’s 18 to 24-year-old voter registration rate is below the national average and is in danger of falling further if policies are not enacted now to increase voter registration opportunities for our youth.”
SB 292 was unopposed during the hearing, and notably supported by the County Council at-large candidate Hans Riemer, Ryan O’Donnell from Common Cause Maryland, Fielding Huseth from Maryland PIRG, and by the Maryland League of Women Voters. FairVote is optimistic that the bill will be favorably reported by the Committee and signed by the Governor at the end of the legislative session. If Maryland enacts the bill this year, they’ll join the list of states with 16-year-old registration: Hawaii, Florida, North Carolina, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia.
You can read Adam’s testimony for SB 292 here.
FairVote was also particularly interested in the permanent absentee ballot list proposal as a way to expand access to the polls. As Adam Fogel stressed it in his testimony, SB 293 would ensure that the most vulnerable among us (senior citizens in nursing homes, disabled citizens), as well as students studying out-of-state, and overseas voters, have the chance to cast a ballot in every election without having the burden of submitting an absentee ballot request before every single election. This bill would considerably strengthen Maryland law, according to which citizens do not need any excuse to vote absentee, and we’re hopeful that the Committee will report it favorably.
You can read Adam’s testimony for SB 293 here.