The recent indictment of a Montgomery County woman and a Frederick County woman on charges of voter fraud in the 2012 presidential election illustrates the need for tougher voting laws, Maryland Republicans say.
On July 25, a Montgomery County grand jury indicted Linda Earlette Wells, 69, on charges of impersonating a voter to register in the name of the voter, attempting to vote under a false name and impersonating another person in an attempt to vote.
She could face up to 15 years in prison and fines of up to $6,000, according to a statement released Tuesday by the Maryland State Prosecutor’s Office announcing the indictments.
Wells, of Germantown, called the Montgomery County Board of Elections the day before the election and impersonated her dead mother, Beatrice Wells, according to the indictment, which says her mother died in June 2011.
Based on that call, the Montgomery County Board of Elections re-activated Wells’ voter registration, which was inactive because of her death, according to the indictment.
Then, Wells cast a provisional ballot as Beatrice Wells, according to the indictment. That ballot — the vote she allegedly cast impersonating her mother — was not counted, according to the statement announcing the indictment.
Del. Kathy Szeliga (R-Dist. 7) of Perry Hall pointed to last year’s congressional race between U.S. Rep. Andy Harris (R) and opponent Wendy Rosen (D).
Rosen dropped out after revelations surfaced that she had voted in both Florida and Maryland.
After pleading guilty in March 2013, Rosen was fined $5,000 and ordered to perform 1,000 hours of community service, online court records show.
“To have a candidate arrogant enough to run for Congress and having committed voter fraud proves there’s voter fraud,” Szeliga said.
In the release about the new indictments, State Prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt said his office would not tolerate attempts to subvert the voting process.
Officials from the State Prosecutor’s Office declined to speak to The Gazette for this story.
Election watchdog groups have called for tougher voting laws and a national voter ID.
“There’s no single answer we can point to as to why fraud occurs,” said Logan Churchwell, a spokesman for True the Vote, a Houston, Texas-based group.
He attributed fraud to partisan motivation, distrust of the electoral system, and other issues.
“Every illegal vote takes away from a legitimate vote,” said Del. Kathy Afzali (R-Dist. 4A) of Middletown. Afzali said Maryland’s voter laws have received a sweeping overhaul and she doesn’t believe the state has proper security to ensure fraud-free elections.
“I don’t know if anywhere has a serious problem,” she said. “What we do have is a serious inability to detect it if there is a problem.”
Requiring voters to have ID and purging the voter rolls would help, she said. “We have a lot of dead people ... or people who have moved or left the state [who are] still on the rolls,” she said.
Afzali said she has tried repeatedly to make fraudulent voting a felony in Maryland, punishable with a fine of up to $10,000.
“Keep in mind, if it’s a felony, the person who commits the crime is prohibited from voting in future,” she said. “And to me, that person should lose the right to vote.”
Voter ID bills, typically introduced by Republicans, have never advanced far in the Democrat-controlled Maryland General Assembly. Opponents have objected to measures that could prevent people unable to get ID from exercising their right to vote.