Elections: A County Board of Elections Pulls a Fast one

  • by:
  • Source: UncoverDC
  • 09/19/2023

The Baltimore County Board of Elections (BOE) quietly amended Regulation .06 by adding significant language to an NDA related to purchasing voter registration lists. The change was proposed on Feb. 9, 2023, and then adopted by the board on Apr. 7, 2023. The language became effective on Jul. 10, 2023, and could signal an intent to deter canvassers who merely want to verify voter roll information. The full memorandum on the Amendment to Regulation changes under the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) contains an excerpt showing the amended language change. The specific Amendment to Regulation .06 is provided below:

COMAR/Baltimore Maryland BOE

Federal Law requires States to maintain voter rolls and make them publicly available to citizens "for the purpose of ensuring the accuracy and currency of official lists of eligible voters...". Voter Rolls, by law, are supposed to be current and accurate. They rarely ever are.

Federal Law/Voter Roll Maintenance

Baltimore County Volunteer Citizen Canvass

Those who purchase the State voter lists are required to sign the NDA or "oath" to ensure the purchaser understands and acknowledges the lists are not to be used for "commercial solicitation" or to be distributed, published, or republished. A Maryland citizen, Kate Sullivan, noticed the change because she has signed the NDA several times.

Sullivan most recently purchased the $80 voter registration list and signed an NDA to direct a legal, nonpartisan volunteer canvass of voters in Baltimore County in an effort to help the county clean and properly maintain its voter rolls. She was adequately certified to conduct the canvass. In April, however, the Director of Baltimore County BOE, Ruie Marie La Voie, asked the group via email to cease their canvassing efforts, concerned that the group was "attempting to influence voters," allegedly because of several calls to complain about the canvassing. Sullivan's response, dated Apr. 6, is pictured below:

Sullivan Email

Sullivan presented the final results of her canvass to the Baltimore County BOE in mid-May. She and her volunteers canvassed over a thousand voters and collected data showing 61 inaccurate registrations. Those incorrect registrations represent 14.59% of the people they were able to verify. An extrapolation of the data across Baltimore County represents roughly 80,000 registrations. The board's response was neutral at best. Sullivan's canvass results are shown in detail below:

Sullivan Volunteer Canvas

The Cost Of Poorly Maintained Voter Rolls

The canvass results says Sullivan, potentially represent an "appalling level of exposure to the risks of fraudulent voting," especially in light of the State's use of the Universal Mail-in ballot. Sullivan estimates it is over $35,000 in postage fees alone "to mail a ballot to a bad registration address." Sullivan also noted in the meeting that the Maryland taxpayers are footing a huge bill to process ballots for bad registrations:

Sullivan Calculations/MD Cost to VOTE

What Changes in Language Did Baltimore County BOE Make?

During the unrecorded Jul. 26 BOE meeting, Andrew Bailey, the board's attorney, "stood up midway through the meeting after public comment to read the NDA as a reminder for all those purchasing lists," according to Sullivan. Sullivan recounts what she witnessed during Bailey's reading:

"Midway through the meeting, after we had presented, by the way, our public comment. He stood up with a very orchestrated and knowing glance to the election director quietly as if they had rehearsed it. No joke. That's not hyperbole. There's no question there was a knowing glance between the two of them.

She said, 'Are you ready?' He said, 'Yes,' and he stood up, looking directly at me, and first said, 'This is the oath that you sign. We want to read it to all those who purchased the list. As a reminder of the oath sign when you purchase these lists,' That is all he said. He did not say there's updated language. He did not say this is a new oath. He just said this is the oath you sign when you purchase these lists."

Sullivan provided for UncoverDC both the old and the new versions of the NDA pictured below, one of which highlights the language added by the BOE in February:

Old NDA/New NDA/Sullivan

Sullivan believes that her history of challenging the board with the volunteer canvas of the voter rolls may have had something to do with the change in language.


It Has Become Difficult To Challenge Elections

Many now know that the U.S. government under CISA has shown a perplexing preoccupation with challenging elections. The National Election Threats Task Force, formed in 2019 to "protect democracy," with its "nonpartisan group of stakeholders," is not the only group that has set its eyes on protecting election workers, voters, and elections. And as the article states, there are many NGOs, social media campaigns, and even an amply-funded domestic terrorism unit that have tasked themselves with thwarting the threats surrounding elections. It is also true that progressives often challenge canvassing efforts by saying it is "voter intimidation." Sullivan says the Baltimore County Board of Elections returned from its spring training session with a "very different attitude." Perhaps some of the training centered around these efforts to shut down challenges to elections?

Now some of the threat concerns may be legitimate. There are no doubt foreign actors and maybe even a few Americans who wish to disturb elections. But much of the activity that followed the 2020 election seems to target American citizens legitimately exercising their right to speak and to challenge the laws and procedures during elections.

Recent news, including Thursday's indictment of President Trump, shows our government is reluctant to entertain a citizen's legitimate right to comment on the results of an election. The request for voter rolls for a canvass conducted legally and transparently is legitimate election-related activity as enshrined in federal law.


For Things to Change, Active Engagement is Necessary

Sullivan is an unusual citizen in Maryland. Among other activities, she attends board of election meetings and has testified before the state legislature on various subjects. As such, she is more aware than the average citizen. However, even she had no idea the language was added to the NDA. She only found it by investigating the BOE meetings and reviewing the minutes of the meetings.

Sullivan is unsure why there was a gap between the proposed amendment and its adoption. Sullivan contacted State Board Chair Bill Voelp to inquire about the change. He said that when nobody objected to the change, they put it through. Therefore, Sullivan suspects there may have been a public comment period. If there was, she doesn't know how a citizen would know when it was.

As engaged as Sullivan is, even she was unaware of the change. It is only because she has consistently attended meetings that she blew the whistle. If there was a public comment period, the likelihood of winning a lawsuit is low because the board can assert that the change was appropriately passed. In any case, Sullivan is currently evaluating her options to challenge the rule change or, at a minimum, add language to clarify the right of a citizen to legitimately canvass elections.

Given what Sullivan relayed about the regulation change, the Baltimore County Board of Elections may not be as invested in transparency as they should be. Our election system has become bloated and very difficult for the average person to understand. Sullivan demonstrated an uncommon level of persistence and vigilance, traits that are vanishingly uncommon in the electorate. However, that kind of engagement will be necessary if Americans want to see legal and transparent elections.


** The author of this article is the sister of Kate Sullivan.

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