ANNAPOLIS – Sen. Richard F. Colburn, R-Dorchester, wants to require proof of citizenship for voter registration as a way to prevent ineligible people from voting in Maryland.
Colburn told the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, that his bill would protect the integrity of Maryland’s election process by requiring documents such as a birth certificate or passport.
If passed, the Maryland voter registration law would become one of the strictest in the country. Indiana, which requires government-issued photo identification at the polls, has the strictest rules, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the ACLU’s case against the Indiana legislation Jan. 9.
The lone witness at Thursday’s hearing, Cindy M. Boersma, legislative director for the ACLU of Maryland, testified that the proposed bill would disenfranchise legitimate voters more than limit illegal participation.
She cited a report by the federal Election Assistance Commission that showed little evidence of voting fraud of any kind, including “noncitizen” voting.
Senior citizens often are less likely to have retained birth certificates and citizens born in rural areas are less likely to have received the documents, Boersma said.
She also testified that women, African Americans and people between 18 and 24 are more often without such identification.
Getting the documents can be time-consuming and expensive, she said. That would contrast with legislators’ past championing of expanding voting opportunities to more of the state’s population, she said. “This bill is not in keeping with that.”
Colburn questioned Boersma’s assertion that the law would limit legal resident turnout. He and Sen. Andrew P. Harris, R-Baltimore County, said the current verification method is not reliable enough because people simply have to check a box that says they are legal residents.
“The information is signed under penalty of perjury so they don’t have to verify it,” Colburn said.
Harris cited an anecdote from his district in which a man who was not eligible to vote accidentally filed a registration application because of language confusion at the Motor Vehicle Administration.
“There’s no system” for verification, Harris said.
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