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Bills would permit high school voter registration in Maryland

Capital News Service

Eligible students could register at their high schools to vote under bills making their way through the Maryland House of Delegates and Senate.

House bill 423, sponsored by Del. Ariana Kelly, a Democrat from Montgomery County, and Senate bill 934, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher, also a Montgomery Democrat, would allow students and teachers at public and private high schools who meet the requirements for voter registration to do so at their respective schools.

Each school would designate faculty or staff members to distribute and collect voter registration materials. Those materials would be then submitted to the appropriate state election official within five days of receiving them.

According to Child Trends, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research center, 51 percent of young adults ages 18-24 registered for the 2016 presidential election. Thirty-nine percent voted in the election.

A House committee heard testimony Tuesday on the bill. An amendment passed that would limit the distribution of application materials to once per school year, before or on Voter Registration Day, which falls on the fourth Tuesday of September.

Kelly said the legislation was brought to her by Montgomery County school advocates who were interested in increasing youth-voter turnout.

Nick Asante, a sophomore at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, joined Kelly on a panel at the hearing and pointed to weeklong drives last year in Montgomery County high schools that registered hundreds of high school students.

“These drives sparked a sense of civic duty among students all over the country and reinforced the notion that anybody can make a difference,” Asante said.

“This sets students on the path to future civic engagement, a fundamental aspect of our democracy.”

A Senate committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on its version of the bill Thursday.

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