- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
A Maryland watchdog group says it has found numerous inaccuracies in voting rolls in Maryland and will submit challenges to those registrations.
Election Integrity Maryland, a voting-watchdog group advocating for a voter ID law, also said that the Maryland State Board of Elections is not complying with the National Voter Registration Act, putting Maryland’s elections at risk. The group’s website indicates it is “empowered” by national group True the Vote.
But an official at the State Board of Elections said the board constantly updates voter rolls and that Election Integrity Maryland’s claims show it doesn’t understand “basic components” of the National Voter Registration Act.
Cathy Kelleher, the head of Election Integrity Maryland, said her organization pored over 36,000 names on the state’s voter rolls in the last two years. In that list, it found more than 1,100 names of people who were deceased but still listed on voter rolls, she said. Election Integrity Maryland found the names of four people who appeared to have voted when they were listed as dead, she said.
That analysis took place from just 1 percent of the state’s voters, she said, meaning that statewide, there could be hundreds of fraudulent votes cast. She said that challenges the group sent to local boards and the State Board of Elections have been met with silence.
“Frankly, even if just one person votes when they shouldn’t, they’re taking away a legal vote,” she said. She said that requiring voters to show ID would help combat voter fraud.
Mary Cramer Wagner, the director of the voter registration division of the Maryland State Board of Elections, said she was “incensed” by Election Integrity Maryland’s accusations.
She said her office has investigated the latest list that Kelleher’s organization had given her.
If the elections board mails an official election item to a voter and it comes back stamped “nonforwardable,” the office sends another piece to confirm the voter’s status, she said. If there is no response on that mailing, the voter goes into “inactive” status, she said.
If the voter then does not vote in two federal elections, he or she is moved to “canceled” status, she said.
An inactive voter has to verify her status before she can vote. A canceled voter is no longer eligible to vote.
“Unless I get that information [that a voter has died] from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene or a family member, I can’t make the assumption they’re dead,” Wagner said.
She said Kelleher’s group is using websites for its research. The elections board does not consider those websites to be official sources of information.
Kelleher said her group has found people who are registered but go several years without voting. She thinks those people could be dead.
“Why are they holding onto these names? It makes no sense,” she said.
But the Voter Registration Act eliminates purging voters’ names from voter lists solely for failure to vote. “That’s federal law,” Wagner said.
Wagner said that voter rolls constantly change as the elections board receives information about deaths, residents moving or other changes.
Kelleher said her group also found at least three voters who were registered in two places and had voted from both locations in the same year, she said.
“We’re not getting feedback to let us know if we’re pursuing our research in the right direction,” Kelleher said.
But the local and state boards of elections have “no obligation to respond to them regarding their list maintenance duties,” Wagner said.
Wagner said that in the last list Kelleher’s group provided, local elections boards already had figured out the reasons for what appeared to be duplicate registrations — for example, siblings with similar names.
“Just because they deem it a duplicate does not make it a bona fide duplicate,” she said.
The watchdog group’s accusation comes on the heels of two recent voting-fraud indictments last month — one in Montgomery County and one in Frederick County.
A Montgomery County woman was accused of impersonating her dead mother and reactivating her voter registration.
A Frederick County woman was accused of trying to vote in her mother’s name.
Wagner said she does not think Maryland has a problem with voter fraud.
She did not say how many instances of voter fraud there were in the last federal election, referring questions to the state prosecutor’s office, which handles vote fraud cases.
An official in the state prosecutor’s office would not say whether more voter fraud indictments or investigations are expected.