Mark Uncapher, is serving as President of the Montgomery County Republican Club. Mark is a long-time party activist who previously served as the Chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Central Committee.
Maryland State Board of Elections Facing Voter Integrity Lawsuit
New Regulation Prohibiting Citizens from Confirming Voter File Accuracy Challenged
The public interest advocacy group Restoring Integrity and Trust in Elections (RITE) has launched a lawsuit against the State Board of Elections to enforce a sunshine law that helps ensure only eligible voters participate in elections.[i] The lawsuit comes after the Maryland State Board of Elections (SBE) ignored for more than three months a litigation notice from RITE and concerned citizens.[ii]
Last year, the SBE adopted a regulation that withholds public records from citizens who want to use them to investigate registration and voting irregularities. The lawsuit seeks to block the SBE from further enforcing this regulation, violating citizens’ rights under state and federal law.
“Maryland’s decision to withhold public records from citizens who want to use them to investigate whether state officials are fulfilling their legal obligations to maintain accurate and up-to-date voter registration rolls is unlawful. Election officials promote distrust and undermine confidence in democracy when they seek to hide their work from public scrutiny. Asking voters to simply trust them is not enough. State and federal law ensure access to registration records so that the public can verify those claims and hold taxpayer-funded officials accountable if they fail to do their job.”
-Derek Lyons, President of RITE
RITE supports litigation to stop a well-funded network of activists from using the courts to undermine elections and democracy. RITE’s work protects democratically enacted election laws from attack and abuse by partisan actors and officials working to threaten or dilute the right of qualified citizens to vote.
Maryland is Violating the National Voter Registration Act
Federal law mandates that states allow the public to access and use certain registration information to evaluate whether states comply with laws that help ensure that registration lists are accurate and current. State efforts to restrict citizen access and use of this information violate the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), which was designed to improve the integrity of our elections by requiring officials to remove ineligible persons from the registration rolls. This includes the deceased and those who no longer reside in the state. There are strong indications that Maryland officials are not fulfilling their obligations to properly maintain the state’s voting rolls, as evidenced by a recent state audit report that revealed, among other alarming findings, that officials had failed to remove at least 2,426 deceased voters from the registration rolls.[iii]
Maryland is Violating the First Amendment
In notifying SBE in September that it has violated the NVRA, the letter also identified several additional legal problems with its anti-democratic scheme. In particular, the SBE’s conduct also violates the First Amendment by infringing on plaintiffs’ core political speech.[iv] SBE’s unlawful regulation targets and discriminates against plaintiffs’ First Amendment-protected investigatory activities while allowing others to use the list for other purposes.
States Are Blocking Access
This is not the first time Maryland has violated the NVRA. Less than four years ago, a federal court ended the state’s effort to unlawfully limit access to its registration list information to only Maryland residents.[v] Hawaii has been sued for trying to limit citizens’ use of list information to examine potential illegal voting activity.[vi] Maine recently tried to prevent the use of its voter lists to audit the accuracy of other states’ lists. A federal court again invalidated that restriction.[vii] In New York, the state’s Attorney General is actively threatened legal action against citizens for their efforts to use registration list information to identify inaccuracies and other problems. [viii]
As of this writing, the SBE has not yet responded to the lawsuit.
[vi] PILF Sues Hawaii for Violating the National Voter Registration Act | Public Interest Legal Foundation; https://publicinterestlegal.org/press/pilf-sues-hawaii-for-violating-the-national-voter-registration-act/
[viii] N.Y. AG on group accused of voter intimidation (spectrumlocalnews.com); https://spectrumlocalnews.com/nys/central-ny/politics/2023/09/21/new-york-ag-sends-cease-and-desist-letter-to-group-accused-of-voter-intimidation