One of the most gratifying volunteer experiences for League members is registering new citizens to vote. People are excited to become United States citizens and part of that excitement is registering to vote. The new citizens often express their appreciation to the League for helping with voter registration at these ceremonies and our volunteers enjoy the festive nature of the occasion – children dressed in their finest as smiling parents take the oath, new citizens proudly displaying their naturalization certificates for family photos, and, on one occasion, the choir from a new citizen’s church singing “America the Beautiful” as part of the ceremony.

The League was invited in 2015 to conduct voter registration following naturalization ceremonies at the United States Courthouse in Greenbelt and we then contacted the clerk of court at the U.S. Courthouse in Baltimore and were soon registering voters there. We are also one of several organizations registering voters at the ceremonies conducted at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service office in Baltimore. Since the beginning of 2018, League volunteers have registered 316 new citizens to vote. We provide each new citizen a welcome packet that gives contact information for the Boards of Elections and the League, and also reminds them to watch for their voter registration card. The packet also includes a bookmark listing dates of the elections, plus deadlines for obtaining absentee ballots and updating voter registration records. We describe our Voters’ Guide and VOTE411 and invite the new citizens to sign up for those services.

Our primary role is to review the forms to be sure that they are filled out completely, so all volunteers have been trained by their local Board of Elections. We also are available to answer questions about the election process, primaries, and party affiliation. We take the completed forms to the Board of Elections. Barbara Crain coordinates this effort for LWVMD, with Marjorie Wexler and Deborah Mitchell assisting at the Greenbelt courthouse, Phyllis Lansing at the Citizenship and Immigration Service location, and Argentine Craig at the Baltimore courthouse. The League’s voter service work can be tedious (e.g., reminding candidates to respond to our Voters’ Guide questions), but registering new citizens is a chance to participate in a festive and heartwarming experience with people who are grateful for our assistance. If you would like to be part of this work, contact Barbara Crain.

Ralph Watkins,
LWVMD 3rd Vice President