State legislators are trying to make it easier for students at Maryland colleges and universities and members of the military to vote via a bill legislators announced Wednesday and is expected to be introduced after the General Assembly convenes next week.
The legislation, which has bipartisan backing, would allow Maryland citizens serving in the military to request their ballots online.
House Majority Leader Eric Luedtke, a lead sponsor, said it would also employ tactics proven to increase voter participation among students.
“It would require our public colleges and universities to implement stepped up programs to help educate students about their right to vote and how to register to vote, but then also support them throughout the voting process,” Luedtke said during a press conference.
For example, students could be excused from class to vote. Private universities that get state money would have to publish links to the state voter registration website alongside course registration information.
Students and other new voters often struggle with the logistics of figuring out where or how to vote, said Rishi Shah, a campaign associate with the Maryland Public Interest Research Group.
“Students who move from out of state or out of district don't know whether they can update their voter registration or they have to keep their home voter registration,” Shah said. “They're not sure if there's any rules around their scholarships related to what state they're registered to vote in. They're not sure if they need to update their address if they've moved from a dorm to an apartment that's just a couple blocks away, but it might be in a different city or state district.”
The bill announced Wednesday would require public colleges and universities to designate a “student voting coordinator” to help students navigate those challenges.
Luedtke said he expects other voting-related legislation this year, including one bill supported by House Speaker Adrienne Jones that would allow citizens to request mail-in ballots for all future elections, rather than submit a new request to vote by mail each election.
“I expect that this is going to be a banner year for voting rights in the state of Maryland,” Luedtke said.