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Record number of Marylanders make use of same-day voter registration

A record number of Marylanders registered to vote at voting centers in the general election, the first presidential election that offered same-day registration for early and Election Day voting.

Same-day registration was used by 26,303 Marylanders — 12,728 during early voting and 13,575 on Election Day, the Maryland State Board of Elections announced Friday.

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Previously, the record for same-day registrations during early voting was 7,884, set during the 2016 presidential election. Same-day registration was not allowed on Election Day until this year, and only 1,042 registered statewide on the day of the June primary.

Maryland had no early voting for the primary this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Same-day registration has been an option for Maryland voters since 2016, first during early voting only. A ballot measure passed in 2018 to expand the practice to Election Day.

A total of 21 states plus the District of Columbia allow same-day registration, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Past voting patterns in Maryland have been turned on their heads this year as election officials and voters scrambled to hold an election in the midst of the pandemic. Maryland delayed its April primary until June 2 and held the contest almost entirely by mail, mailing all 4 million voters across the state a ballot and opening only limited in-person voting centers.

The Nov. 3 election had a hybrid format. All voters were mailed ballot applications rather than ballots. They could choose to vote in-person, either on Election Day or during the eight days of early voting from Oct. 26 through Nov. 2.

More than 2.2 million people voted early, 1.3 million via mail-in ballots and the remainder in person during the early voting period. Only 474,799 people voted on Election Day. Election officials continue to counting still more mail-in ballots, and will consider provisional ballots cast at the polls for tabulation next week.

More Democrats made use of same-day registration this cycle, not unexpected given that party’s registration advantage in Maryland. A total of 12,671 Democrats registered this fall on the day they voted. Another 7,453 Republicans used the option. The final day of early voting on Monday and Election Day on Tuesday saw the highest number of same-day registrants.

Joanne Antoine, executive director of voting rights group Common Cause Maryland, said she was excited to see the participation in same-day registration in the fall election. Common Cause was part of a coalition that lobbied for the expansion of the practice.

“In every single election, there are lot of voters who become activated or engaged right at the very last minute," Antoine said. “That’s when more aggressive outreach is happening. Being able to provide all voters with that last opportunity to go in and register and have your voice heard has been huge.”

Antoine said the pandemic may have contributed to the high number of same-day registrants this year. Groups that do extensive advance registration drives, such as the League of Women Voters, were somewhat stymied by the pandemic, she said. Also, Motor Vehicle Administration offices, where many people register to vote or update their registration, were closed from late March through early June, she noted.

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