January 25th, 2022

 

Maryland State Board of Elections

151 West Street,

Suite 200

Annapolis, MD 21401

 

Dear Members of the Board of Elections,

We support the proposed regulations allowing students in Maryland to use their dorm contract as proof of residency when registering to vote during early voting or on Election Day. We want to thank the Board of Elections for addressing this concern. 

We should make every effort to ensure that first-time young voters are able to navigate the voting process.  Specifically, young people are less likely to vote than older demographic groups. Young people who are registered to vote turn out in high numbers, similar to the rates of older voters. Research shows that voting is habit-forming–when young people participate in the voting process they’re more likely to do so for life. As a result, to increase civic participation and build life-long voting habits, getting young people registered to vote is critical. 

Dorm contracts can serve as a legitimate and accessible way for students to show proof of residency when registering to vote. In the specific instance of students showing up on Election Day/during early voting, we want to ensure that all students have the same experience. We don’t want eligible voters to be turned away when they show up, especially as young people as this can be a discouraging experience discouraging future civic participation.  Some students, especially out-of-state students, don’t have a Maryland state ID. Even in-state students may have moved for college, and don’t have any documentation with their current dorm address. Students living in dorms also may not receive alternative documents used to prove residency, such as utility bills.

As a result, dorm contracts can and should be used as proof of residency for students registering to vote. We can encourage first-time and young voters, and increase civic participation. 

 

Sincerely,

 

Rishi Shah

Maryland PIRG Advocate