Rishi Shah, Maryland PIRG Advocate

Testimony for HB0702

Ways and Means Committee, February 15, 2022

Election Judges - Training and Signs - Accommodations for Voters in Need of Assistance

Position: Favorable

Maryland PIRG is a state based, non-partisan, citizen funded public interest advocacy organization with grassroots members across the state and a student funded, student directed chapter at the University of Maryland College Park. For fifty years we’ve stood up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society.

We support HB 702 to require election judges to be trained on what methods judges can use to assist elderly voters and voters with disabilities and also require a sign outlining these methods to be placed at polling sites.

Voters with disabilities face serious barriers when casting their ballot, leading to increasingly lower participation rates. These sorts of issues are cyclical–if someone is unable to vote because they don’t receive the assistance they need to do so, their negative experience will dissuade them from participating in future elections. In a democracy, we should aim to maximize civic participation and ensure that all eligible voters are able to successfully cast their ballot.

Additionally, research has found that poll workers are under-trained on how to assist people with disabilities as there are few resources available to election officials. This report specifically identified insufficient poll worker training as a primary recurring barrier to voting accessibility for people with disabilities, which this legislation would help address.

Every eligible voter should be able to participate in the electoral process, regardless of their age or disability. We strongly recommend a favorable report.