TESTIMONY TO THE HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE
HB 1094 Election Law - Polling Places - Proof of Identity
BY: Susan Cochran, President
DATE: February 27, 2014
The League of Women Voters of Maryland opposes HB 1094 because it seeks to limit the number of people in Maryland who can vote. Pursuant to this legislation, persons who are properly registered to vote and appear at a polling place to vote will be denied that opportunity, or will be allowed to vote a provisional ballot that will only be accepted upon later-presented proof of identity.
The tortured history of disenfranchisement efforts in our country has shown that, at various times, legislators of both major political parties have denied people the right to vote because of their race, their ethnic background or their wealth status. These efforts – disenfranchisement of women, poll taxes, language and literacy requirements - have eventually been overturned and in hindsight appear to have been unfair, petty or, at the very least, undemocratic.
Characterized as innocuous measures to preserve election integrity, voter identification laws have been passed in thirty-three states, although new laws in some of those states are awaiting judicial review. Maryland should not jump on the undemocratic bandwagon and undermine the value of the votes of these populations. Substantial evidence has been presented to show that low-income, disabled, minority, young, and older voters are disproportionally affected by strict voter ID laws. On the other hand, the evidence of voter fraud by individuals showing up to vote on Election Day under a false identity is extremely sparse, especially in Maryland.
While this particular piece of voter ID legislation is less onerous than other voter ID legislation you have reviewed – and rejected - as members of this Committee, it nevertheless seeks to deny the opportunity to vote to citizens who have lawfully registered to vote and who have made their way to a polling place to participate in our electoral process, but who do not, on election day, have on their person a qualifying document to prove their identity.
The League of Women Voters opposes HB 1094 and all other legislative efforts to curtail the right and the opportunity of legally registered voters to vote in Maryland elections.