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Republican nominee to state elections board heads to full Senate

Senate Executive Nominations Vice Chair Sen. Clarence K. Lam (D-Howard and Anne Arundel). Photo by Bryan P. Sears.

A Maryland Republican Party nominee to the State Board of Elections will be recommended for confirmation to the full Senate despite concerns about a social media post and emails attributed to her.

The Senate Executive Nominations Committee voted 12-3 Monday night to send Diane Butler, an Ellicott City resident, to the full Senate. The floor vote could come later this week.

The committee held Butler’s nomination for two weeks over concerns about hyper-partisanship and her views on the integrity of recent state elections.

“I think the correspondence, just to me, seems in many ways, to be incongruent to some of the motivations that were actually expressed during the hearings,” said Senate Executive Nominations Vice Chair Clarence K. Lam (D-Howard and Anne Arundel), one of three members of the panel who voted against Butler’s nomination. “I’m just not confident that her motivations previously to really press the county board of elections and some of her prior statements were solely intended to improve the process.”

Butler not required to attend the committee meeting Monday night and was not present.

Lam was joined in opposition to her nomination by Sens. Cory V. McCray (D-Baltimore City) and William C. Smith Jr. (D-Montgomery).

Smith declined to comment on the vote.

McCray said Butler’s comments following other rejected Republican nominees and the indictment of a Republican who had been serving on the board made it hard for him to vote to recommend her.

“I think that some of the commentary that was delivered had me pull back,” said McCray. “I do have some level of reservations, especially within the state board of elections, with the [political] climate that we have at this moment.”

Diane Butler was nominated to a seat on the Maryland State Board of Elections by the Maryland Republican Party earlier this year. Photo by Bryan P. Sears.

Lam questioned Butler during her confirmation hearing about the social media post and emails regarding elections.

In one comment on Facebook, user Diane Spain Butler was said to have compared COVID-19 mask mandates to “Nazi armbands.”

Butler, during her March 12 testimony, said she could not remember the post.

In other 2021 emails, Butler wrote to a state board of elections staff member raising concerns about custody of ballots, absentee balloting, and staffing.

In that same May 2021 email, Butler raised concerns about budget issues and some grants that Howard County and some other local election boards received from a nonprofit associated with Facebook.

She also emailed questions on behalf of someone named “Steve.” That person was later identified as a person associated with a group that had advocated for a full forensic audit of 2020 elections in Maryland.

The emails and social media posts were not widely circulated among the Executive Nominations Committee — something Lam said could have tilted the outcome in favor of Butler.

“I’m not sure that they’ve seen all the primary source material that is out there,” Lam said. “I’m also not sure that they’ve had such extensive conversations with individuals in Howard County who are more familiar with her actions and prior statements to be able to have as comprehensive of a perspective of it as I’ve had in reviewing her prior actions.”

Butler was tapped to fill the vacancy created by the departure of Carlos Ayala. The Eastern Shore resident resigned in January after less than a year on the elections board after being indicted by federal prosecutors for allegedly participating in the Jan. 6 insurrection in the U.S. Capitol.

The state Republican Party also nominated Jim Shalleck to fill the spot currently held by William Voelp.

Voelp has remained on the board following the expiration of his term because two other Republican nominees were either rejected by Gov. Wes Moore (D) or the Executive Nominations Committee.

Shalleck’s nomination is on hold because he is on the May 14 Maryland primary ballot as a delegate to the Republican National Convention, supporting former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who has suspended her campaign. He cannot be formally nominated to the elections board while he is a candidate.

The five-member panel is appointed by the state’s two major political parties. The party that holds the governor’s office holds three of the five board seats.

Nominees for the elections board are selected by the state Democratic and Republican parties. The parties then submit the names to the governor, who, in most cases, forwards them on to the state Senate for confirmation.

Over the last year, Republican nominees to the board have run afoul of the appointments process and prosecutors. Butler represents the fourth nominee selected by the party to fill its two elections board seats since Moore took office.

One nominee was rejected by Moore last year. Another was rejected by the Executive Nominations Committee. A nominee to the Talbot County Board of Elections withdrew when it became apparent that the committee would not forward her nomination to the full Senate.


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Republican nominee to state elections board heads to full Senate