Groups OK to pay to register voters

Baltimore & Region


Maryland advocacy groups may pay their members to help citizens register to vote under an agreement released yesterday that clarifies an obscure state election rule.

Leaders of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now sued the Maryland State Board of Elections on Sept. 8 after officials interpreted the state regulation as banning the payment of voter-registration workers. ACORN argued that a ban violated their freedom of speech.

Under the agreement, groups will be permitted to pay registration workers, and those workers will not be required to receive training or state certification. An ACORN official said the settlement will help it conduct voter-registration drives.

"If we want to do large-scale voter registration drives, then we need to pay people," said the group's legislative director, Michelle Moore.

Maryland code prohibited "voter registration volunteers" from being paid unless they worked for a labor union, a political organization or certain other groups. Voter registration volunteers receive training from local election boards on how to complete registration forms.

Now, the code will prohibit them only from receiving payment on a per-registrant basis. The order also states that the volunteer program and the additional training are "not mandatory for those individuals or groups wishing to distribute statewide voter registration applications" or to help potential voters complete and submit the forms.

In the past, ACORN has paid about 75 people up to $50 a day to register voters.

Kevin Enright, a spokesman for the Maryland Attorney General, confirmed the settlement. Officials with the Montgomery County Board of Elections, which was also been named in the lawsuit, could not be reached for comment.

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