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Fair Elections Advocates Urge State Bd. of Elections to Allow More Federal Agencies to Register Voters in Md.

A coalition of fair elections advocates wants the Maryland State Board of Elections to allow more federal agencies to register voters in the state ahead of the 2022 elections.

Maryland’s election laws allow the State Board of Elections to designate federal agencies as “voter registration agencies,” according to a news release from the Everyone Votes Maryland coalition and Demos, a New York-based progressive think tank.

Armed forces recruitment offices and various local and state government service providers are already designated as voter registration agencies, according to the State Board of Elections website. Fair elections advocates want to see more federal agencies added to that list.

Voter registration agencies “must offer voter registration services to each person applying for service or assistance, renewing or certifying eligibility, or submitting a change of address,” the State Board of Elections website states. Maryland election officials have the authority to designate voter registration agencies under the National Voter Registration Act.

Federal agencies that advocates want to see designated as voter registration agencies in Maryland include the U.S. Postal Service, Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Social Security Administration, and a slew of federal departments including the Department of Labor and Department of Veterans Affairs, the advocates’ letter to election officials says.

“Maryland has made a lot of progress on expanding access to voting through reforms like same-day and automatic voter registration but we know there are still eligible voters in the state who face obstacles to voter registration,” Common Cause Maryland Executive Director Joanne Antoine said in a statement. “I spoke to a new citizen recently who didn’t realize she had to register to vote in our elections because that was not a process back in her country.”

Antoine said federal agencies could help “close the gap in outreach to eligible voters” and boost turnout.

Demos Senior Policy Analyst Laura Williamson said adding more federal agencies to the state’s list of voter registration sites is “the most significant step the Maryland Board of Elections can take to bring Marylanders into the democratic process.”

Disability Rights Maryland Managing Attorney David Prater said designating additional federal agencies as voter registration sites would make voting more accessible to people with disabilities.

“People with disabilities frequently use and benefit from federal services and agencies,” Prater said. “Expanding opportunities for registration when people interact with federal agencies is a common sense approach to increase the full participation of people with disabilities in their most important civic right.”

Everyone Votes Maryland is a coalition of various grassroots civic advocacy groups aiming to boost voter turnout across the state.

To learn more about how to register to vote in Maryland, click here.

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