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Md. on the Hook for $27K in Legal Fees to Conservative Group

Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch

The State of Maryland is on the hook for $27,000 in legal fees to a national conservative organization that sued the state three years ago over voter registration rolls.

It’s part of a settlement the state reached with the group Judicial Watch after a federal court earlier this year ordered the state to make all voter registration data available to the conservative organization.

Judicial Watch sued Maryland to obtain voter list data in 2017 after alleging that there were more registered voters in Montgomery County than citizens over the age of 18 who were eligible to register. It was part of the conservative group’s nationwide campaign to “clean up” voter rolls.

In August 2019, U.S. District Court Judge Ellen L. Hollander ordered the State Board of Elections to produce the Montgomery County voter data, concluding that Maryland election law “is an obstacle to” the intent of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993.

Following the court ruling, state elections officials initially provided Judicial Watch with a list of registered voters — but one that did not include their dates of birth. On April 17, the court ordered the state to produce the registration list with every voter’s date of birth.

“Maryland politicians fought us tooth and nail to keep Judicial Watch from uncovering the full truth about their dirty election rolls,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in April following the federal court ruling. “This latest court victory will allow Judicial Watch to ensure Maryland and Montgomery County are removing voters who have moved or died long ago.”

The Maryland Board of Public Works is set to vote Wednesday to confirm the $27,000 settlement payment to Judicial Watch.

At the same meeting, the BPW is scheduled to vote on a proposed $35,600 payment to reimburse attorneys for the Maryland Green Party and the Libertarian Party of Maryland for ballot access litigation against the state.

The third parties sued the state in May to reduce the signature requirement to appear on the November ballot. They argued that the state’s stay-at-home order and social distancing guidelines since the outbreak of COVID-19 made it impossible for them to exercise their First Amendment rights.

The Greens and Libertarians reached a settlement with the state a month ago cutting in half the petition signature requirement for gaining ballot access for the November general election.

As part of the settlement, the Green Party and its law firm are in line for a $25,000 payment from the state, while the Libertarians and the Center for Competitive Democracy, a national ballot access organizational, will split $10,600.

In a related development, Amber Ivey, an unaffiliated candidate for Congress in the 7th District, announced Monday that she had reached an agreement with state elections officials that would cut her signature requirement for ballot access in half. Initially, the State Board of Elections had said the state ballot access settlement with the Green and Libertarian parties would not apply to independent candidates, but Ivey sued.

“I believe that every person has the right to ballot access,” she said in a statement. “COVID-19 restrictions have made it especially hard for candidates to collect signatures, which interferes with their constitutional right to seek to be on the ballot.”

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Md. on the Hook for $27K in Legal Fees to Conservative Group