Scalpel, not hatchet fixes voter rolls
In a recent editorial, The Washington Times urges the League of Women Voters and Common Cause to join an effort by Judicial Watch to remove voters from the registration rolls in Montgomery County, Maryland (“Preserving voting rights in Maryland,” April 23). Based on our knowledge of Maryland’s voter-registration system, we cannot support this misguided effort.
Judicial Watch’s expressions of alarm about the number of people on the voter rolls in Montgomery County reflects their lack of knowledge about the registration process, not any malfunction of the system. Their letter to the state board of elections artfully refers to the total number of voters records, though they are aware that a large number of those are inactive voters in the process of being removed. Many people move from one location to another without notifying the board. When a piece of mail sent by the board is returned by the postal service, that voter is placed in inactive status. After missing two election cycles, the voter is removed from the rolls, but as Judicial Watch well knows, they cannot be removed before that time unless they confirm their move.
Judicial Watch also neglects to note that the census bureau estimate on which they rely counts only those citizens over the age of 18. In Maryland, a citizen can register to vote at age 16 but their registration is held in inactive status until they turn 18. Also, a voter can vote in a primary if they will turn 18 before the general election. There are thousands of such voters in Montgomery County alone. Similarly, the census estimates do not include citizens stationed overseas in the military, the diplomatic corps or international organizations, though those citizens continue to have the right to vote.
Furthermore, the Maryland State Board of Elections already participates in a consortium of states that exchange voter registration and other government data to identify people who have moved or died, leading to thousands of corrections to voter registration rolls every month. Unlike the blanket removals from the rolls that Judicial Watch supports, Maryland’s procedures take care to avoid errors due to mistaken identities, giving voters notice and the opportunity to correct mistakes.
Both of our organizations want every citizen to be able to vote and we will continue to work with boards of elections to maintain the integrity of the election process. We will not be joining any effort that is as careless about voters’ rights as the latest Judicial Watch publicity stunt.
Vice president, director of voters’ service League of Women Voters of Maryland Annapolis JENNIFER BEVAN-DANGEL Executive director
Common Cause Maryland Annapolis