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Commentary Election 2020

Open Letter: Does MoCo’s GOP Really Want to Review Election Issues in a Bipartisan Manner?

Bipartisan
Photo by Margaret Thale.

By David Naimon

The writer is a Democratic member of the Montgomery County Board of Elections.

The following is an open letter response to the Montgomery County GOP Chairman Reardon Sullivan:

Dear Mr. Sullivan:

I don’t think we’ve met. I’m a member of the Montgomery County Board of Elections, replying to your communications to the board alleging possible voter irregularities, but speaking only for myself.

The MCGOP’s Feb. 9 press release, “Montgomery County Republican Central Committee Demands the Montgomery County Board of Elections Clean-up Voter Rolls,” called on Democrats to join you in working to clean up the voter rolls, but somehow you sent your “demand” and your “supporting documentation” only to the Republicans and not to the Democrats on the board to allow us to evaluate the merits. (Thankfully, one of our colleagues shared them with us.)

Were you serious about wanting a bipartisan effort?

State law makes the governor’s political party the “majority party” on the Maryland State Board of Elections and each county’s local board (including ours), so it’s true that we are “the minority” and regularly can be outvoted on our board (despite Democrats’ outnumbering Republicans by more than 4-1 in Montgomery County). But we’re supposed to act in a bipartisan fashion to serve all those eligible to vote, and I was disappointed that you didn’t communicate with some of us about your concerns.

Why now? Republicans have controlled all Maryland elections boards since 2015, and the MCGOP alleges “possible voting irregularities in Montgomery County during the last election cycle.” Where were you when we were counting the votes in 2020?

The board on a bipartisan basis praised the outstanding work of our staff for the very challenging 2020 election cycle during the pandemic. We voted unanimously to certify the results on Nov. 30, 2020, and on that day the board’s then-president Jim Shalleck, then-vice president (and now president) Nahid Khozeimeh, and I (as the board secretary) signed the certification of the results, reporting that “the results are accurate.”

The MCGOP called on the board to purge voters who you said don’t live in Montgomery County, but it turns out that most of them may be Montgomery County residents going to college out of state.

Did you hear that on Feb. 28, about two hours into our meeting, our board attorney and staff reported that they checked a sample of the 160+ voters with North Carolina mailing addresses that you submitted to us, and all of the sampled voters voted only once, either in Montgomery County or North Carolina, but not both? No irregularity there.

The MCGOP called upon our board to identify non-citizens in voter databases and update the voter databases “to include a data field to distinguish between those authorized to vote in Federal and State elections versus only local elections.” But everyone who votes in federal, state or county elections, and therefore everyone on the state and county voter databases, is required to be a U.S. citizen. Adding a data field that indicates that all 700,000 registered voters in the county are U.S. citizens would be wasteful and unnecessary.

Municipalities (such as Takoma Park and Somerset, among others) that choose to allow resident non-citizens (or younger residents) to vote in municipal elections run their own elections and use their own supplemental voter rolls to allow such city residents to vote.

MCGOP’s submission to us said that 78 people were registered to vote and 19 people voted in 2020 at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, and incorrectly asserted “there are no housing units available at Walter Reed …” In fact, a quick Google search showed that The Washington Post reported that Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin and Congressman Jamie Raskin wrote to the secretary of the Navy on Feb. 17 to express their concern about the unacceptable living conditions at two barracks buildings and a firehouse at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

The Navy Times and WTOP News reported that nearly 500 enlisted sailors and soldiers at Walter Reed are living without air conditioning, hot water, working refrigerators, thermostats or door locks. I’m sure our board on a bipartisan basis would not want to add insult to injury for these great American patriots by purging their Montgomery County voter registrations.

Our board follows federal law, state law and state regulations in managing the voter registration lists. Our staff gave an excellent presentation Feb. 28 on how we manage these lists, which I hope you’ll get a chance to review. Would you agree that we should follow these laws and be certain voters are in fact ineligible to vote in Montgomery County before removing them from the voter registration lists?

Thanks for writing to our board – if you’re serious about wanting all of us on a bipartisan basis to address any concerns about real election issues, please include all of us next time. I’d be happy to discuss these or other election administration issues with you.