By Glynis Kazanjian
Twenty-thousand deceased Marylanders remain on voter registration rolls, 268,000 voters are registered at addresses where they don’t live, and 48 are listed with record ages higher than 114 years old, according to an analysis by the Maryland Republican Party.
Republicans released their findings Tuesday, citing data collected from current state election files, the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Postal Office National Change of Address (NCOA) information and commercial information available on the web. They evaluated the data with a specially designed voter management software program.
“We want to share our findings with the State Board of Elections to make sure voter rolls are cleansed properly,” said Maryland Republican Party Executive Director David Ferguson. “This is not an attack on the state board. They are just a repository for all 24 counties. It’s very difficult to remove someone from the voter file.”
Changes in law might be needed
He said the findings illustrate that there might need to be changes in Maryland law, or that elections officials need to go above and beyond the current system in order to make sure the voter rolls accurately reflect Maryland voters.
The report found 11,170 individuals currently on the voter rolls have changed their address to Virginia, 4,352 to Delaware, 11,113 to Pennsylvania, and 3,696 to New York. Media reports say that the world’s two oldest people are 114 and 116 — making it extremely unlikely that Maryland has 48 people aged 114 or older, as the analysis found on the voter rolls.
State election officials, who received preliminary information this week, will investigate the findings just as soon as the Republican Party turns over its data, Voter Registration Director Mary Cramer-Wagner said.
Only so much elections board can do
Unlike maintenance performed on voter registration address files, there is only so much the state election board can do to remove the dead from the voter rolls under federal law. The 1965 National Voting Rights Act prohibits names from being removed from voter rolls unless official notification of a person’s death is received. Currently the state board relies only on monthly death reports from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) and notifications submitted by family members.
“We get information from vital statistics,” Cramer-Wagner said. “If the information is not given to me, I cannot arbitrarily remove a person’s name.”
The state also cancels registration of voters who are inactive for two general elections that are either presidential or gubernatorial. The cancellation follows two official election mailings -- a sample ballot sent prior to the election followed by an address confirmation notification -- that have both been returned for a bad address.
Cramer-Wagner said beginning next week, election board staff will also be able to utilize a new voter registration maintenance program the state board launched last year, which will provide another layer of data that the state board currently doesn’t access. Information from the state’s new Electronic Registration Information Center program will include social security death records, U.S. Postal Service files and voter data, including address changes, from other states.
While new data – and the GOP's findings - will prompt the state board to send out confirmation mailings, files cannot be updated until a death is officially confirmed.
“Any additional sources for removing someone from the statewide voter registration database would require a change in the law,” Cramer-Wagner said.
GOP grateful for board’s cooperation
Ferguson said he is grateful for the cooperation he’s received from the state election board, but hopes that Maryland law will be changed.
“The state and local boards are doing everything they are required to do,” Ferguson stated. “Our supplemental information is not about the [state board’s] lack of proper administration, but finding other ways to accomplish the same goals. We hope the state of Maryland can benefit from our findings.”
Of the 268,004 registered names with different addresses than those on file, the GOP contends approximately 167,113 now live at a different location within Maryland and approximately 100,891 have filed change of address forms stating they now live out of state. Ferguson said the research group compared voter data against a National Change of Address search through the Postal Service.
In releasing their findings, state party chair Diana Waterman said,“It is time to open the books and cleanse our list of the deceased and those no longer residing in Maryland to make sure we fully understand who is voting in our elections.”