Coalition Supports Bill to Expand Polling Place Access at Colleges and Military Bases

 

A bipartisan group of Maryland’s elected officials has pre-filed legislation in the House and Senate with the goal of giving students and active-duty military members easier access to voting resources.

Sponsored by House Majority Leader Eric G. Luedtke (D-Montgomery) and Mike Griffith (R-Harford) and Sen. Sarah Elfreth (D-Anne Arundel), the legislation would allow active-duty military members to electronically register to vote and request an absentee ballot as well as make public colleges and universities formulate plans to encourage students to vote.

The Student and Military Voter Empowerment Act (HB156 / SB 283) would create formal processes for “large residential communities” such as universities, military bases, and senior communities to request on-site polling places. It would also require public higher education institutions to increase voter registration efforts on their campuses, and give college students excused absences to vote.

Both public and private higher education institutions would be required to create websites that link to voting information if the bill passes, and would have to report how many students are using those sites.

Military members would be allowed to register to vote online using their Department of Defense Common Access Cards if the bill passes. Luedtke noted that many military voters don’t serve near a post office or embassy, and can’t easily register to vote under Maryland’s current system.

The bill has support from student and military advocates, who say the legislation would increase voter turnout. Patrick Guibao, the Vice President and Legislative Director for the Maryland Military Coalition, said the bill would benefit Maryland’s overseas service members.  “Voter empowerment is citizen enrichment,” Guibao said.