Md. Democratic leaders cry foul as watchdog group trains 200 poll watchers

Md. Democratic leaders cry foul as watchdog group trains 200 poll watchers

Rep. Elijah Cummings and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (By Elijah ECummings on Flickr)

Obama Romney by DonkeyHotey

Obama Romney by DonkeyHotey

By Glynis Kazanjian

The Maryland Democratic Party and some of its top elected officials are complaining that a Maryland voter watchdog group is training people in voter suppression.

Election Integrity Maryland, an offshoot of the Texas-based TRUEtheVOTE, has trained up to 200 poll watchers across the state this year to monitor what should be one of Maryland’s most contentious elections in memory.

“No electioneering should be taking place inside the polls, period,” said Election Integrity Maryland President Cathy Kelleher. “Voters should be treated with respect and get the assistance they need, but no one should be voting for [instead of] the person who needs the assistance.”

Voting by fairfax county on flickr

Voting by fairfax county on flickr

Three statewide petition referendums appear on the ballot asking voters to either uphold or undo laws passed earlier this year by the Democratic majority state legislature. Early voting starts Saturday.

Same sex marriage, in-state college tuition for illegal immigrants, and a gerrymandered congressional redistricting map that even some Democrats don’t like are up for grabs, as well as three constitutional amendments, a referendum to expand gambling and charter amendments in many jurisdictions.

Cardin, Cummings, Rawlings-Blake object

But U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, Rep. Elijah Cummings – the ranking Democrat on the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee – and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake are crying foul, claiming the watchdog group’s efforts are merely an attempt to keep people from voting.

On Thursday, the trio is scheduled to make an appearance at an SEIU local in Baltimore to warn Maryland voters about potential voter suppression efforts by what Democrats say is a Tea Party backed group.

Rep. Elijah Cummings and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (By ElijahECummings)

Rep. Elijah Cummings and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (By Elijah ECummings on Flickr)

“All elections are important and this one is especially important,” said Rep. Cummings’ spokesman Mike Christianson. “It is essential that every citizen participate without obstruction.”

Earlier this month, Cummings sent a letter to TRUEtheVOTE demanding a wide range of material from the group that he believes could document voter suppression. The letter cited an article by Maryland Reporter describing the work of Election Integrity Maryland that discovered dead voters still on the registration rolls.

In announcing Thursday’s press conference, the Maryland Democratic Party said: “True the Vote has a record of filing inaccurate voter registration challenges across the country. But these tactics are not new to the Free State. Maryland Republicans have a history of using dirty tricks on Election Day. In most cases, these intentional efforts at voter suppression are targeted at minority voters and others who traditionally vote for Democratic candidates.”

Maryland GOP will also deploy poll watchers

Maryland Republican Party Executive Director David Ferguson said the Republican Party will also make a concerted effort to have a presence at the polls this election.

“We will have a presence at the polls in targeted precincts in almost every county,” Ferguson said. “We will also have a hotline set up in the office to receive complaints.”

The state party has submitted an Election Day operations guide to the state elections board and is awaiting their approval.

“We want to make sure that everybody has an equal opportunity to vote, once,” Ferguson said.

Some agree poll watchers shouldn’t pose a threat

State Board of Elections spokesman Ross Goldstein said the state board has no problem with poll watchers.

“Elections are supposed to be an open and transparent process,” Goldstein said. “Poll watchers help make it transparent and they serve a purpose, but not because there is a problem.”

St. Mary’s College Political Science Professor Todd Eberly agreed, adding there were other forms of voter suppression such as voter ID laws and gerrymandering.

“Poll watchers don’t really do anything and they are not allowed to interact with voters,” Eberly said. “There’s little reason to link poll watching with voter suppression efforts such as voter ID laws. A vibrant democracy should welcome poll watchers. True voter suppression comes from voter ID laws and gerrymandered congressional districts. One approach aims to deny people a vote and the other makes voters irrelevant.”

State Board gave green light to EIM training manual

EIM has hosted training sessions from Washington County to Montgomery and Wicomico.  Wednesday and Thursday will be their last session before early voting begins.

Kelleher has held training sessions for the Talbot County Republican Central Committee and the Montgomery County Federation of Republican Women, but she contends EIM is nonpartisan. All of their individual sessions have been open to the public, she said, and their website states it will train anyone, regardless of political party affiliation.

EIM sought approval by the State Board of Elections to review their training manual before putting it to use.

“We ran [the training manual] by the Maryland State Board of Elections for comments,” said Kelleher. “We essentially got it approved. We didn’t have to. We thought it was the right thing to do.”

About The Author

Len Lazarick

Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.


  1. Rick

    Tell Cummings he can have docs when he makes Holder turn over fast and furious doc,

  2. Dale McNamee

    Sen. Ben Cardin, Rep. Elijah Cummings, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, at the SEIU hall…What a picture of fraud free voting ! Need I say any more ?

  3. Douglas Gillette

    The Dems will always cry foul when they can’t cheat

    • JudeLawGuardian

      Nope. That’s the Republitard’s key game tactic, not ours, sweetie. We didn’t steal the elections in 2000 and 2004—YOU did.

  4. Oldbot

    The obvious answer to distrust of Republican “poll-watchers” is to have Democratic poll-watchers watching the watchers. They can keep each other busy….

  5. John R. Johnson - Leonardtown

    I will continue to post this and write to the Maryland Legislature again and again and again until they pass a Voter ID law! In our Constitution of Maryalnd it states in Article 1 Section 7… “The General Assembly shall pass Laws necessary for the
    preservation of the purity of Elections.” Now ladies and genetlemen on the left and the right – just what do you think this means? We’ev all seent he e-mail floating around about how we must show ID for a bank account, car rental, using a credit card, etc… Well, voting is a heck of a lot more important than renting a car! Get on it Annapolis!!!

  6. abby_adams

    IMHO these Dems are CYAing it just in case voters reject their coveted agenda. What better cover claim “voter suppression” after all MD voters couldn’t possibly have any rational thoughts or opinions on who leads our country or what laws Annapolis enact without listening to the voice of “We the People”. Blame it on those mean old Republicans, Bush, Ehrlich, anybody but a Democrat.

  7. Jerry Morgan

    First and formost polls Inside and out should never have Noncitizens of that state present. Poll watches (citizens of that state) should do just that – Watch. They should never assist of encourage procedural change during the voting process. Just watch and report as citizens inapproprriate activity or crime.

    • Just the Facts Lady

      Election Integrity Maryland IS Marylanders…Marylanders who are tired of stolen elections and the crocodile tears of those who steal them. Sometimes all that is needed is to shine the light….

  8. Jim Simpson

    I am increasingly disappointed in the biased tone adopted by Maryland Reporter in articles like this. We thought for once Maryland might be getting a newspaper not blatantly in the pocket of state Democrats. Looks like we are getting disappointed again.

  9. Jim Simpson

    This article is also misnamed. It should read something like: “Local group seeks to clean up the voter rolls; Democrats object.” The unspoken subtext is, “Why on earth would they object?” There are way too many controls in place for substantial numbers of voters to be “disenfranchised” as Democrats fraudulently claim. But with thousands of dead people, duplications, and otherwise no longer valid registrations on the rolls, voter fraud can and does easily occur, especially in those precincts that are not carefully watched.

  10. Jim Simpson

    The Pew Research figures are national, not state. I did not specify that in the previous post. That was an oversight, corrected here.

  11. Jim Simpson

    What a surprise! Democrats are horrified at the prospect of their corrupt vote fraud game being threatened. They have been at this for years, unchallenged in many precincts, where voters are at the mercy of their corrupt political machine. Elijah Cummings, Stephanie Rollins Blake and Ben Cardin need to sit down, shut up, and let honest elections proceed for a change. NONE of what they say about Election Integrity Maryland or True the Vote is accurate. These groups follow procedures prescribed in law and regulation. The fact that the Maryland Board of Elections and the local registrars don’t do their jobs and clean up the rolls does not mean the rolls don’t have problems. The Pew Research Center found that approximately 24 million registrations – 12.5 percent of the voter rolls – were invalid or inaccurate, including 1.8 million deceased voters. How did they find that out? By the same methods used by True the Vote and Election Integrity Maryland. The unfortunate fact is that this state has become endemically corrupt due to the machinations of people like Governor O’Malley, Rep. Cummings and Sen. Cardin. When something comes along to threaten their franchise, naturally they get agitated. But don’t be deceived. Maryland voters are fed up with this state’s corrupt Democratic machine. We are going to try to fix it. So I say to Rep. Cummings, Mayor Blake, Cardin et al, GET USED TO IT!

  12. ???

    Democrats say they object to this, but they don’t say what their objection is. Do they think the UN poll watching is okay, but Republican poll watching is not? Poll watching does not lead to voter suppression, it leads to cheater suppression, just like voter ID does. Any illegal votes can negate my vote and will have taken away my rights as a citizen.

    • Laurie Pruser-Stockman

      apparently, they object to the fact that the group has found DEAD people registered to vote. . . right? That’s part of the documentation that they’ve asked for. . .


  1. Maryland Watchdog Group Accused of Voter Suppression Training - [...] more: Under Creative Commons License: Attribution Filed Under: 2012 Election, Occurrences ← [...]
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