Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch are considering some important voter legislation for the 2016 session of the General Assembly.

It’s called “universal voter registration,” and currently only two states — California and Oregon — have it. It’s a simple idea. Rather than requiring registration to vote, all eligible residents would automatically be put on state voter rolls.

According to Miller and Busch, this is about enabling more voter participation.

According to Joe Cluster, executive director of the state GOP, “This is all about the Democrats finding new voters. This is a joke. God forbid they actually go out there and register people to vote.”

“I’m in favor of as much access to voting as possible,” says Busch. It’s the one great franchise that every citizen and every Marylander should exercise.”

Miller echoes that sentiment, saying, “I’m for any and all legislation that increases voter participation.”

According to a recent Baltimore Sun story, instituting universal voter registration would add hundreds of thousands of voters to the state’s voting lists. The conventional wisdom says a lot of those previously unregistered voters would be minorities, immigrants, folks with lower incomes and/or less education — groups that tend to vote Democratic.

Democratic legislatures in California and Oregon made this happen in their states. In New Jersey, the Democratic-controlled legislature tried to follow suit, but GOP Gov. Chris Christie vetoed the bill. “I don’t think that people ought to be automatically registered to vote,” he said. “Is it really too much to ask someone to fill out a form?”

One might reasonably ask why someone should be required to register to vote when he or she is already an eligible voter.

Maryland’s process could involve using various databases to identify qualified voters and then automatically registering them to vote. There would be an opt-out provision for those who don’t want to be registered.

Senate Minority Leader J.B. Jennings believes that filling out a registration form is an indication of an informed, committed voter. “Requiring people to register to vote by filling out a single-page form is a simple way to ensure the voters are dedicated enough to do their part” — an indication that they are or will become informed about the issues and the candidates. Isn’t that a bit of a stretch?

If this bill materializes, it may be fashioned after legislation created by Sen. Roger Manno, a Montgomery County Democrat. Manno dismisses out of hand Jennings’ argument that people need to take the initiative to register to vote. “People either have a right to vote or they don’t,” he said. “It’s government’s job to make people’s lives easier and better, not throw up barriers to exercising their rights.”

There are several approaches, including Manno’s, as to exactly how these new voter rolls would be created, and a number of important details to work out, but the basic idea is that eligible voters will be automatically registered by the state without having to fill out a registration form.

Under this idea, people could opt out of being registered if they chose and, of course, could choose not to vote if they please. That sounds like a very democratic arrangement.

It’s uncertain whether being registered would make someone more likely to participate in an election. Myrna Perez, deputy director of the Democracy Program at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, thinks the answer is yes. “Once people get on the voter rolls, the people who want you to vote get activated,” says Perez.

Those “people who want you to vote” would have a lot more potential prospects if this legislation is proposed and passes muster in Annapolis. We assume that the Democratic and Republican parties would both “get activated” and compete for those new voters’ loyalty.

We support universal voter registration in principle and believe if it is carefully conceived and managed it could be a secure and fair system and would bring many more eligible Maryland voters into the electoral process.

(32) comments

reader99

This bill is a bad idea and not because people need to get off their butts. It is so bad that it will violate people religious rights by even automatically register them to vote. 2. Those on Parole and Probation are banned by law from even voting this idea violates Maryland State law. 3. Those convicted on buying and selling votes are banned for life from voting. Lastly non US citizens are barred by state and Federal Law from even voting except for a few towns and villages in Montgomery County. Drop this crap because the turnout is already much better. Busch and Miller has developed themselves a lawsuit if they even dared to get this pass.Besides if they want to pass they need to allow non citizens to vote in state elections. 2 Allow those on Parole and Probation to vote and 3 Allow those who bought and Sold Votes to vote. Also maybe the Lawmaker from Montgomery County has the best idea instead of simply instead of automatically register people to vote let people be informed that unless they opt out then they will be register to vote. The only answer is to simply drop this Automatic Voter Registration idea now or see the state in court.

fnfn

I remember Jebwillfixit promising his brother Florida and then taking all those registrations off the rolls without notifying all those people. Why is it the mean party keeps trying to get voters off the rolls and the party of the people work on getting more on?

DickD

Easy explanation, the party of no fears those they cannot control. So the GOP does not want them registered. The party of inclusion wants everyone to get a chance to vote - the Democratic party.

timothygaydos

If you want to vote, get off your lazy butt and go register; having others do it for you is just crazy and once again part of the "entitlement" mentality we are now living. We have no sense of accountability and having people take responsibility to do something for themselves. These same folks that we want to automatically register to vote are the same folks that have no problems getting other places to do what they want when they want. Stop catering and let them do it for themselves.

DickD

This might be a Democratic demand, but it really isn't going to help much. Does anybody really believe that someone too lazy or unwilling to vote will vote just because they are registered? And anyone that unwilling will never take the time to know the issues and candidates. It just is one thing if left undone would make no difference.

pragmatic one

The liberal left - including the Frederick News-Post - are so two-faced. Replace the words "right to vote" with "right to own a gun" and the story should be the same. Both are constitutionally guaranteed, but the left will never be intellectually honest. Do you think Democrat Roger Manno would make the same statement for gun rights "People either have the right...to own a gun... or they don't. It's government's job to make people's lives easier and better, not throw up barriers to exercising their rights." Don't hold your breath. Democrats only have one objective in mind - increasing their own power. The mindless minions are just a tool.

DickD

That is the problem, pragmatic one, you are taking it out of context. Voter registration is not the same as gun ownership and no one is restrictiing the rights to own a gun, just the magazines and felons with a criminal record or mentally disabled. But if you want to use the felons and mentally disabled, you would get my support.

pragmatic one

DickD you may be missing my point. Voting and gun ownership are exactly the same - they are both constitutionally guaranteed rights. But in Maryland, to own a gun I must pay to attend a course, I must pay for registration, and I must pay a recurring fee. Sounds like the old "poll tax" that was used to keep the poor from voting. The liberals love slapping up these barriers to honest citizens who wish to exercise their gun ownership rights, but they think that a once-in-a-lifetime act of registering to vote is onerouse? Again, intellectually dishonest. And for the record, I am not posing my opinion as to support/not support any of these policies, I am merely pointing out the two0-faced nature. Cheers!

shiftless88

No one ever voted another human to death

DickD

No, your point is wrong. Guns do not have to be registered in Maryland, pistols have to be registered. Pistols are a specific type of weapon, which happens to be the favorite of criminals, Hence, the reason for registration. So, you can have your guns, no training, you can't have a concealed pistol without registering and training. Training because not everyone knows how to handle a pistol, which is far more dangerous in the hands of a novice than a long gun of any type. Nor is it a tax, it is a license. You don't need to pay it unless you want to "carry" a concealed weapon.

Voter registration and gun ownership exactly the same? If you were right, which you are not, it would mean both would need to register and be trained. Where is those that register being trained to vote and on any politics? Besides, the only ones trying to restrict the far right conservatives, the Republicans. So, how can you say liberals love slapping barriers on honest citizens. Sound to me like it is the Republicans you should be taking to task.

teapartier

Shiftless- Our 9thPresident William Henry Harrison. Caught a cold during his inauguration on March 4 1841 died of pneumonia April 4 1841 in office 30 days. In away he was voted to death.

pragmatic one

This is a reply to shiftless88. I would opine that votes can be far more dangerous than individual handgun ownership. Our votes put GW Bush in office, and his ill-advised war with Iraq has killed how many? Our votes put BH Obama in office, and his ill-advised intervention in Libya and Syria has killed how many, including a US diplomat. So yes, countless people have been voted to death. Sorry, but votes do have consequences.

vicdavy

Pragmatic one,False Equivalencies are Not Logical!

olefool

The GOP is wrought in a self inflicted death spiral. Of course they oppose any effort to expand the voter rolls.

bosco

We can't even figure out who is here legally. How can we figure who is automatically eligible to vote?

jerseygrl42

Once again , a typical socialist slant!....

vicdavy

Typical Fascist response [beam]

shiftless88

The level of information available regarding each issue or person during the election is amazingly large, but it is also largely/mostly incorrect. You want an informed voter populace? Then let's cut out all private funding of elections. Because restricting voter registration has zero correlation with "being informed"

vicdavy

[thumbup] Public Campaigning will restore the concept of "one person one vote"! The most misinformed voters comment here quite often,but they vote!

jsklinelga

shiftless88
I could not agree with you more about public funding of elections. Citizens United is strongly disliked by both liberals and conservatives. It protects "party bosses."

No one wants to restrict registration, just insure it's legitimacy. Are you not in favor of a responsible electorate? Consider your name,"shiftless"..".characterized by laziness, lack of ambition or indolence". I would not attribute those qualities to you by I do appreciate the irony. I do not want shiftless people determining my grand kids future. Call me a bigot but I believe that is practical. And this legislation has great potential for fraud. One example: What precinct in the county would a voter eligible homeless person cast their vote? Yes, right or wrong I am for a responsible, certified, electorate.

shiftless88

Shiftless is related to automatic transmissions. But I don't see that the electorate right now is responsible at all, and if they were automatically registered they would be certified. Basically I don't see how the resulting electorate would be inferior to the one that exists today. A homeless person probably wouldn't vote, but this doesn't say anything about changing districts. They'd probably have to declare some precinct.

jsklinelga

Shiftless88 First I hope you understand I was not labeling you, just pointing out something ironic. And to declare a precinct they would need to register that declaration.

public-redux

Someone who agrees with me is an "informed" voter. Someone who disagrees with me isn't.

Right.

jsklinelga

What comes to mind is "political bosses." Over the centuries our election process has been riddled with stories of cheap drinks on election day and the dead voting twice.

My whole life I have been a Democrat and I still object to many Republican policies but I must say I have become wary of many of the policies the new Democratic Party. This latest initiative of Universal Voter Registration is a good example why. The intent is crystal clear. The majority of responsible, educated, informed voters no longer wholesale support Democratic Party positions so it is time to go back to the bars, graveyards, back alleys and homeless shelters for support.

In my 40 odd years of voting I have had faith in the process. Voting is a right but it is also a responsibility. I believe in an informed electorate. Consider the last Frederick County election. Like a majority in Frederick County i voted against Blaine Young but voted straight Republican for council to seek a balance of power.I believe it was an informed choice by the majority for good Government.

I understand the discrimination that existed in previous centuries but this is 2015 and the electorate is better informed and access to voter registration is much easier. This new initiative will be extremely difficult and costly to implement and has great potential for fraud. As a lifelong Democrat i urge the party to implement better policies and stay out of the bars, graveyards and away from identity theft.

bosco

Could not have said it any better. Thanks for posting. It's worthy of a letter to the editor. [beam]

shiftless88

I'm trying to understand how someone registering somehow means they are automatically an "informed" voter at the next or any subsequent elections. If you want an informed electorate there are ways to do this and test this. Should we have an exam prior to entry into the polling place to make sure? There are currently plenty of ignorant people who nevertheless are registered and vote every time. What is the harm in having everyone eligible to vote being able to vote?

b1sellers

I guess the harm is that when "you" are trying to limit those who can vote this works in direct opposition to that.

DickD

Good point shiftless. I attended many forums last fall and most did not have more than 2 or 3 hundred at the most, some far less. If you look at the numbers registered to vote it means less than 1 % do not take the time and trouble to find out anything, actually far less than 1%. I know that Linda and Susan went out almost nightly door to door campaigning. And some of us made phone calls too. Some would talk to us, many would not considering it an invasion of their privacy.

DickD

Most of what you say, I agree with jsk, but voting straight Republican on the rest of the Council? Surely you could have done better than that. Not that I agree with all of the Democratic ideas either, I don't. Still how could you vote for Billy and not Linda or Susan? Not knowing what district you are in, it would be speculation on my part who else you may have voted for, but if in District 4, Delauter should have been a no-no and in District 1, Jerry Donald is far better than the stooge, Ellen Bartlett.

jsklinelga

DickD
People sought balance. Is it not amazing how close District 1 was? i was not alone in my thoughts I just sought some balance. And to return to an older issue between us: what is happening to MTC? For years I campaigned against politically controlled development. The real power structure in this county and State is still democratic..My heart goes out to the people who were informed but fooled concerning MTC (more overcrowded roads, schools, taxes,etc.)
The real "good ole boys" wanted Citizens, but do not dare mess with their developments. Even if it is against the courts and council vote.

DickD

jsk, I agree with you on MTC never should have happened, but you do realize if we hadn't had a good honest person in Bud Otis, things would have been much worse. While he was campaigning I had a long talk with him, didn't change my vote, but certainly liked him. He has proven himself very responsible, likeable and with statesmanship ability.

DickD

jsk, I am slightly amused by your comment having worked the election polls for about 10 years. I worked both the floor and the books. On the floor some were willing to almost let me vote for them making it necessary for me to tell them many times, I cannot give you advice on your selection, just the voting process. Others were so fearful that I might know how they were going to vote, it was pitiful. I really didn't care how they voted or who they were going to vote for and anyone thinking I could memorize more than one or two voters is giving me far more credit than I deserved. There might be people that can, I wasn't one of them.

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