Testimony on Electronic Signatures in Voter Registration

By Jenny Levin
Public Health Advocate

Testimony before the Ways and Means Committee
HB 173 - Election Law – Voter Registration Agencies – Electronic Signatures

Position: The Maryland Public Interest Group supports the passage of HB 173, authorizing an applicant registering to vote at a voter registration agency to consent to the use of an electronic copy of the applicant's signature that is on file with the voter registration agency as the applicant's signature for the application being submitted; and requiring a voter registration agency to transmit an electronic copy of the signature of specified applicants for voter registration to the State Board within 5 days.

Maryland Needs to Simplify Voter Registration to Increase Voter Participation  
Maryland’s electoral process has been suffering from low voter turnout. For example, the last primary in Baltimore had its lowest voter turnout in history—only about 12% of the city’s population participated. A 2011 Study conducted by the ACLU blames, in part, complex and cumbersome voter registration processes on low voter turnout.

Voter registration, to date, has been accomplished through paper applications, though an online voter registration system is currently under development, as are improvements to the MVA’s and State Board of Elections’ computer systems; these improvements would allow for voter registration applications to occur at MVA, and be transmitted electronically to the State Board of Elections (this would require an MVA driver’s license or identification card number).

Maryland should make voter registration as widely available as possible. By enacting HB 173, Maryland would be taking an important step towards increasing the ease and availability of voter registration, thereby encouraging greater electoral participation. Maryland PIRG supports HB 173 and requests a favorable report.

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