Is Maryland Neglecting Election Law Prosecutions?
Are the State Board of Elections & State Prosecutor Ignoring Law Violations?
A recent audit by Maryland's Office of Legislative Audits (OLA) criticized the state Board of Elections for not sharing promptly with the State Prosecutor the names of people who voted or tried to vote more than once in the 2020 general election.[i] The State Elections Board identified 134 voters who voted more than once and 1,371 individuals who attempted to vote multiple times in the 2020 general election. Still, it did not report these individuals to the Office of State Prosecutor until April 2022.
The audit also noted that the elections board could enhance its procedures to identify deceased, out-of-state, or duplicate voters fully. The audit identified thousands of "potentially deceased individuals" whose voter registrations were active and others with apparent duplicate voter registrations.
The findings criticized the procedures used to identify the registrations of deceased voters: "We found that SBE's match of voter records to State death records was not as comprehensive as necessary to identify certain potentially deceased voters. For identifying potentially deceased voters in MDVOTERS, SBE only followed up on individuals that were exact matches (such as identical spelling and format of names) based on records of potentially deceased voters it receives from the Maryland Department of Health (MDH). SBE could be investigating the MDH results of broader matching parameters, which would include both exact matches and results that are very close to certain user-defined parameters (called "fuzzy" matching)." Additional criticisms focused on the State Board's cybersecurity processes, but the specifics were redacted from public disclosure.
This year's audit is not the first time the Board of Elections has received unfavorable audits. In 2017, OLA concluded that the board did not ensure the accuracy of its voter registration rolls and that officials allowed voters to receive ballots solely by providing publicly available information such as name, address, and date of birth. [ii]
In a statement after the recent audit was released, quoted by Maryland Matters, Elections Administrator Jared DeMarinis said the Board of Elections worked with the auditors throughout the process.
"What is clear from the audit findings is that Marylanders should have full faith and confidence in the integrity of our elections and voting process," DeMarinis said. "SBE is committed to continuous improvement of election administration, and in many cases, issues identified in the audit have already been or will be resolved. SBE is committed to open and transparent election administration, security, and meeting proceedings. SBE has already engaged with major stakeholders and outreach programs for the 2024 election cycle."[iii] DeMarinis took over as Election Administrator in September after long-time administrator Linda Lamone (finally) retired.
But wait ... there's more.
The State Proscutors' performance also deserves scrutiny. [iv] According to their annual reports for 2019-2022, out of 1,524 Election Law Enforcement referrals, only 3 cases resulted in criminal charges. [v] Perhaps the State Board of Elections' failure to make timely referrals has resulted from its experience with the State Prosecutor's failure to follow through on the referrals it did make.
A case in point may be voting by non-citizens. On November 9th, the State Prosecutor issued a press release trumpeting the guilty plea of Francis G. Bagnall for voting in the 2018 Maryland Gubernatorial General Election despite lacking citizenship. Bagnell had been registered to vote in Maryland since 1996. His citizenship status was flagged after he responded to a jury summons and to avoid jury duty, he indicated that he was not a U.S. citizen.[vi]
Election integrity activists, including Ella Ennis and the Maryland Federation of Republican Women, have previously flagged jury duty citizenship data. Ennis's legislative testimony in 2018 reported, "We learned from the Montgomery County Circuit Court Administrator that for the mid-2015 to mid-2017 time period, there were a total of 8,185 individuals rejected for jury duty because they were not U.S. citizens in Montgomery County." Efforts at the time to cross-reference this jury information with the voter registration list used to select jurors was met with a stonewall of resistance from the Board of Elections and the courts' administration.
As concerns about election integrity ramped up, the failure of responsible officials to take criminal violations and other legal requirements more seriously contributes to the climate of skepticism.