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Barriers at the Ballot Box: Who Votes, Who Doesn't & Why

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Maryland’s primary election is two weeks from today.  Early voting begins on Thursday.  And so, today, we’re talking about voting.

Americans vote at much lower rates than citizens of other advanced democracies.  And while voting is the central tenet in a strong democracy, many states have enacted laws and voter requirements in recent years that actually make it harder to vote. What can be done to encourage and enable voting? Is there the political will to get it done?

Tom’s first guest is Marcia Johnson-Blanco. She is the co-director of the Voting Rights Projectat the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in Washington D.C.

Then, Tom is joined by Max Feldman. Feldman serves as counsel in the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law in New York. He’s a co-author of a fascinating new reportoutlining the increased difficulties that voters in nearly half of states throughout the country will face when they vote this year compared with prior years. Feldman joins us from NPR’s New York studios.

John Willisjoins Tom in Studio A. He was Maryland’s Secretary of State from 1995 to 2003, and part of his portfolio was overseeing elections here in MD. He chaired Maryland's Special Committee on Voting Systems and Election Procedures, which led to landmark legislation and implementation of election reform measures in 2001. And he served on the Commission to Revise the Election Code, which modernized and re-codified Maryland's election laws. He is now executive in residence at the University of Baltimore’s School of Public and International Affairs.

Finally, Tom is joined by Nykidra Robinson, the founder of the Baltimore-based group Black Girls Vote, a group that is all about engaging, educating and empowering women of color to vote – and maybe even run for office.

If you have questions about where and how to vote in Maryland, click here.  If you face voting hurdles or suspect irregularities while trying to vote, call the nonpartisan 866-OUR-VOTE.

Audio to be posted by 5 p.m.

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