No voter registration ‘bloat’ in Maryland, study finds

Voter registration chart

State registration as % of eligible population; number of counties where registration is higher or close to eligible population.

By Len Lazarick

Compared to 16 other states, Maryland’s voter registration rolls show no signs of “bloat,” a condition where more people are registered to vote than are eligible based on Census figures, according to a new study.

The study by the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity found that 85% of those 18 and over in Maryland were actually registered, and there were no jurisdictions in which there were more people registered than eligible.

“Maryland looks awfully good,” said Earl Glynn, a special projects coordinator based in Kansas. Other nearby states with no voter bloat problems include Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

But in Virginia, where 82% of the eligible are registered, six counties had voter registration 95% or higher than the Census, and one county was over 100%. North Carolina had significant issues in 11 of its 88 counties, and Michigan was the worst, with 96% registration statewide, and 24 of its 84 counties with registration numbers higher than the eligible voters in the Census.

Glynn started to study the issue in 2010 with Kansas Watchdog when he found that counties in Kansas and Missouri had registrations 150% higher than the eligible voters.

Glynn analyzed the data obtained from the Maryland State Board of Elections by

Failure to clean the voter rolls

Generally, “bloat” would indicate a failure to clean the voter rolls by removing people who died, moved or otherwise stopped voting.

In Maryland, Glynn said, “Several counties have fairly low voter registrations. For example, I’m surprised at the low numbers for Baltimore City. Many urban areas often have 90% or higher registration of the census voting age population but Baltimore is only about 80%. Baltimore County is a bit higher, but very reasonable for an urban area.”

“The only high numbers I’m seeing were from 2008 when Talbot County showed about a 98% voter registration rate of census population. Worcester County was just below 95% in 2008.”

The Maryland State Board of Elections a few weeks ago sent out 1.1 million postcards to people with driver’s licenses who records indicated were not registered to vote. That 1.1 million figure roughly corresponds to the difference between the number of registered voters and the number of people over 18.

The board said about 2% of  the people getting the cards were already registered “due to underlying data issues – such as the name or date of birth on file with SBE and MVA did not match.”

Voter registration closed last Tuesday in Maryland, and those figures are not available. At the end of August, 3,563,971 voters were registered in Maryland, but 256,000 are classified “inactive,” either because they haven’t voted in recent elections, or they submitted a change of address form to the post office, or the elections board could not get confirmation of their address.


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.

Support Our Work!

We depend on your support. A generous gift in any amount helps us continue to bring you this service.