Today, LDF submitted written testimony to the Maryland Senate Education, Energy, and Environment committees in support of HB627, a bill to implement Automatic Voter Registration for formerly incarcerated Marylanders upon release. The Automatic Voter Registration-State Correctional Facilities (H.B. 627) would designate the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (“DPSCS”) as an automatic voter registration agency and would require the DPSCS to register eligible voters upon release of confinement from a state correctional facility unless the potential voter opts out. 

Currently, eligible Marylanders may currently be automatically registered to vote when they interact with State agencies like the Motor Vehicle Administration, the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, local departments of social services, and the Mobility Certification Office in the Maryland Transit Administration. By extending automatic registration to formerly incarcerated people as they are released from prison, Maryland will be able to drastically expand access to democracy for the roughly 70,541 men and 16,113 women released from its prisons and jails each year. The impact will be especially significant for Black Marylanders, who endure widespread and persisting discrimination in the criminal legal system and make up 71.54% of the Department of Corrections incarcerated population.

This disproportionate incarceration rate contributes to stark racial disparities in voter registration and turnout in Maryland. U.S. Census data for the 2022 elections reports significant voter registration and turnout disparities between white Marylanders and residents of color, including a more than 10-point turnout gap between white and Black voters and 20 points (or a 50% difference) between white and Latine voters. By enacting HB627, Maryland can facilitate nearly 87,000 people registering to vote, and help historically marginalized communities have a stronger voice in our multiracial democracy.

Read the full testimony here.