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House: Election Law - Qualification of Voters - Proof of Identity

HB 1017, Oppose

The Maryland Catholic Conference (“Conference”) represents the public-policy interests of the three Roman Catholic (arch)dioceses serving Maryland: the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the Diocese of Wilmington.

HB 1017 would require an election judge to establish a voter's identity and verify the voter's address if the voter seeks to vote a regular ballot.

While it is understandable and commendable to craft legislation that prevents voter fraud, legislation that requires the use of a government-issued photo identification to vote will provide barriers to voting for many Marylanders. Even though this bill establishes provisions for certain people to obtain identification cards for the purpose of voting, those provisions can easily be costly to the state and do not address issues of access to state agencies in order to obtain these identification cards. Therefore, this legislation will foreseeably make voting more difficult for people with disabilities, the elderly, and the poor, who generally face challenges with access to public goods and services, to vote when they have already established their identities via voter registration.

The Church is a constant advocate for the needs and rights of the poor and vulnerable in society. All people have the right to have a voice in the public square and laws should not be in place to infringe upon the right to vote. The requirement to present a government-issued photo identification in order to vote is reminiscent of historical laws that prevented large populations from voting prior to the enactment of the Voting Rights Act. The Conferences urges you not to put laws in place that negatively impact a significant number of Marylanders.

The Conference appreciates your consideration and urges you to oppose HB 1017.