Voter watchdog clashes with Prince George’s election board over records -- Gazette.Net


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Dead Prince George’s County residents apparently still care about who is president and came out in droves to vote in last year’s election, according to the findings of a Maryland nonprofit group that tracks state voting registrations.

The volunteer-driven Election Integrity Maryland, which has 169 members, found 2,400 out of 3,500 voter records had “irregularities” — mainly dead people voting and people voting under invalid addresses, said Cathy Kelleher, president of the statewide-based nonprofit.

State and county officials said they looked into the findings and could not confirm all the irregularities.

She said not keeping voter lists “clean” is a violation of the National Voter Registration Act that requires states to maintain timely and accurate voter registration lists for federal elections.

Dead people registering to vote or casting votes is considered voter fraud and cases are sent to the Office of the Maryland State Prosecutor. Violators can face jail time, state election officials said.

Since the watchdog group’s creation in 2011, it has filed challenges with the Maryland Board of Elections regarding Prince George’s voter list in May and July of 2012, Kelleher said.

“The [state] board did what they always do, and they did nothing,” she said, referring to the group’s first two filings. “We do not feel they have adequately demonstrated they’ve been looking into these matters ... If we do get a response, it’s a partial response.”

Mary Cramer Wagner, director of the Maryland Board of Elections’ voter registration and petition division, said she received the group’s reports and, following protocol, turned them over to the county, which constantly audits county lists.

“List maintenance is an ongoing daily process,” Wagner said.

Maryland is a member of ERIC, the Electronic Registration Information Center, a nonprofit data center that offers member states access to a technology software that allows them to cross-examine voter rolls with state drivers license registration records to verify information is up-to-date, Wagner said.

Maryland is one of seven states to initially join ERIC, which launched in 2012.

Prince George’s Board of Elections sent Kelleher a letter on Sept. 12, 2012 — which she acknowledged receiving — that summarized the county’s findings after it reviewed the voter rolls in question, said Daneen Banks, deputy administrator for the county board of elections.

Banks said the county looked at the thousands of potentially deceased voters or those with potentially wrong addresses the group cited, including 1,026 records of people who might have moved homes.

“We found some, but we could not confirm all of the irregularities [the group] reported because they used sources we cannot by law use,” she said. “We cannot haphazardly remove someone from the voter rolls based on a Facebook status.”

For example, an obituary is not proof a voter is dead. Confirmation must come from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Banks said.

If a voter record is thought to be inaccurate, the state or county board will send a confirmation letter to the address on the record. If no one replies and the voter does not vote for two consecutive election cycles, the voter is labeled “inactive” and then removed from the list.

“We responded and actually went through the process of reviewing and handling this,” Banks said. “We took it very seriously.”

Kelleher said the county did not review nearly enough records and will not allow for follow-up questions.

“[Integrity groups] are having the exact same issues across the country,” she said.



spetit@gazette.net