Pre­serv­ing voting rights in Mary­land

One fraud­u­lent vote can­cels one le­git­i­mate vote, and that’s a crime

The Washington Times Daily - - ED­I­TO­RIAL -

Some­times the best de­fense is a good of­fense, and this is of­ten lost on con­ser­va­tives. That might be about to change. In bat­tles over pro­tect­ing voting rights, con­ser­va­tives are usu­ally put on the de­fen­sive by lawyers of the liti­gious left as they seek sym­pa­thetic lib­eral judges to strike down com­mon-sense ballot-in­tegrity mea­sures en­acted by the states.

The con­ser­va­tive le­gal watch­dog group Ju­di­cial Watch is try­ing to turn the tables. The other day Ju­di­cial Watch told the Mary­land State Board of Elec­tions that it would sue the board if of­fi­cials in Mont­gomery County don’t act promptly to purge its voting rolls of in­el­i­gi­ble vot­ers — the de­parted, the dearly de­parted and il­le­gal im­mi­grants.

Ju­di­cial Watch says Mont­gomery County has 103 per­cent as many reg­is­tered vot­ers on its rolls as there are le­gal res­i­dents of voting age in the county. County records show a to­tal voter reg­is­tra­tion of 657,548, and a votin­gage pop­u­la­tion of 633,295. More than 24,000 names shouldn’t be there. If enough of those bal­lots were to be cast by fraud­sters — friends or rel­a­tives of the dece­dents, res­i­dents voting both where they once lived and where they live now, and nonci­t­i­zens — close races for the Mont­gomery County Coun­cil, the Mary­land Gen­eral As­sem­bly or other elec­tive of­fices could be dis­torted.

Cav­a­lier dis­missal of voter fraud by say­ing it doesn’t ex­ist can’t change re­al­ity, though the direc­tor of the Democ­racy Pro­gram at the lib­eral Bren­nan Cen­ter for Jus­tice at New York Uni­ver­sity School of Law tries to do just that, blithely dis­miss­ing the Ju­di­cial Watch threat as “a stunt.” Self-styled “good­gov­ern­ment” groups, such as Com­mon Cause and the League of Women Vot­ers, should be join­ing Ju­di­cial Watch in urg­ing the state to do the right thing. One fraud­u­lent vote, af­ter all, can­cels one le­git­i­mate vote.

Ju­di­cial Watch Pres­i­dent Thomas Fit­ton ob­serves that In­di­ana has purged al­most a half-mil­lion in­el­i­gi­ble vot­ers from its rolls since Au­gust 2014 “thanks to the pro­cesses we helped put into place.” Ju­di­cial Watch has given Mary­land 90 days to avoid a law­suit. “Your fail­ure to main­tain ac­cu­rate, up-to-date voter-reg­is­tra­tion lists has cre­ated the risk that the 2018 fed­eral elec­tions will lack the in­tegrity re­quired by fed­eral law and by the ex­pec­ta­tions of Mary­land cit­i­zens,” Mr. Fit­ton wrote David McManus Jr., chair­man the board last week.

Mr. Fit­ton says Mary­land is in vi­o­la­tion of Sec­tion 8 of the Na­tional Voter Reg­is­tra­tion Act (the so-called “mo­tor voter” law) and the Help Amer­ica Vote Act, which re­quires states to “en­sure that voter-reg­is­tra­tion records in the state are ac­cu­rate and up­dated reg­u­larly.” The lat­ter re­quires states to make “a rea­son­able ef­fort to re­move reg­is­trants who are in­el­i­gi­ble to vote from the of­fi­cial list of el­i­gi­ble vot­ers.”

In re­sponse, the elec­tions board in­sists that it “reg­u­larly au­dits the lo­cal boards’ com­pli­ance with the process as part of our over­sight role.” Mary­land’s en­forc­ing the law would hardly make the state a lighter shade of blue, but it would be the right thing to do.

Pres­i­dent Trump said he would as­sign Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence to chair a na­tional com­mis­sion to look into voter-reg­is­tra­tion is­sues in the wake of an elec­tion in which the pres­i­dent spec­u­lated that mil­lions of il­le­gal votes were cast. Mil­lions is a lot, but even short of that there’s a big job to do, and Mont­gomery County, Mary­land, is a good place to start.

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