Tag Archives: Maryland State Board of Elections

Did the MVA Voter Issue Change Any Maryland Primary Results?

By Adam Pagnucco.

The failure of the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) to transfer data on some voters who changed their registration information to the State Board of Elections (SBE) has attracted lots of attention from the press and members of the General Assembly.  Here is a key question: did it actually change the outcomes of any elections?  New data allows us to examine this issue.

Recently, SBE sent the General Assembly the number of voters affected by the MVA registration change issue by party, precinct, state legislative district and Congressional district.  We show the total number of voters affected by state legislative district below.  (Note:  The data does not include all potentially impacted voters because SBE cannot map all addresses on file with MVA to addresses in the voter registration list.)

Now what happened to these voters?  These are folks who tried to change their voter registration address or party affiliation at MVA and, unfortunately, the changes were not passed on to SBE.  One of five events would have happened to these voters.

Possibility 1: 5,163 affected voters voted normally because they changed addresses within the same area.  We don’t have their distribution by legislative district.

Possibility 2: They could have voted through a provisional ballot which was subsequently accepted.

Possibility 3: They could have voted through a provisional ballot which was subsequently rejected.

Possibility 4: They could have been told at the polling place that they must cast a provisional ballot and then left without voting.

Possibility 5: They may not have tried to vote at all.

Right now, we don’t know the distribution in each one of the above five event categories.  We do know that the number of affected voters who voted provisionally was 3,538 but we don’t know how many of those ballots were rejected.  Possibility 4 – leaving the polling location without voting – is the most unknowable of all and also the most disturbing.  It’s also a very real possibility as illustrated by Maryland Matters’ report of this exchange at a General Assembly hearing between SBE Administrator Linda Lamone and two state legislators.

Del. Eric G. Luedtke (D-Montgomery) seemed concerned that while the estimated overall turnout statewide was about 25 percent, among the affected voters – roughly 8,700 affected voters who used either provisional or regular ballots – the turnout was less than 10 percent.

“Is it reasonable to say that this may have had a deterrent effect on voters, or are you concerned that it could have had a deterrent effect on voters?” Luedtke asked.

“Yes,” Lamone replied.

“That’s a key issue for us,” Luedtke said.

Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George’s), vice chairman of the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, asked Lamone if she knew of any studies that showed the use of a provisional ballot was “dissuasive.”

“I have seen some discussion of that, senator,” she said. “I haven’t seen the numbers, but I have seen some discussion that people believe that it’s less than a vote – it’s not a real ballot.”

Under further questioning by Pinsky, Lamone agreed that voters could have been put off by the prospect of using a provisional ballot.

“There could be some number of voters out there who didn’t vote because of this error?” Pinsky asked.

“That’s correct,” Lamone replied.

Did any primary election results change because of this mistake?  We will never be able to answer that question, but we can identify some elections that were close enough so that an impact was possible.  Below are eight races across the state in which the number of voters affected by the MVA issue was at least five times the winning margin held by the victor.

This does not include the Baltimore County Executive race (a seventeen-vote margin after recount) or the Howard County Council District 1 race (a six-vote margin after recount) because their boundaries do not match state legislative district data, but obviously, they could have been affected.  Other than those two races, the ones in which the MVA mistake had the greatest probability of affecting the election were the contests for Montgomery County Executive and House District 16.  In the MoCo Executive race, Marc Elrich led by 492 votes in early and election day voting and David Blair led by 73 votes in provisional voting.  That compares to a total of 5,381 MoCo Democrats affected by the MVA issue.

Going forward, there are two areas of concern.  First, there must not be a recurrence of this issue in the general election.  And second, now that the state has passed automatic voter registration, a law that mandates the passing of voter information between numerous state agencies and SBE, the potential for the kinds of problems seen at MVA is now greatly magnified.  Imagine the chaos that would result from MANY thousands of voters showing up to the polls thinking they had registered but then finding out that SBE did not have their information.  It would make the MVA issue look tiny and would have the potential to affect a whole lot more elections.

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Updated: Preliminary Fundraising Totals in Public Campaign Financing, September 2017

By Adam Pagnucco.

This morning, we posted preliminary fundraising totals for candidates in public financing.  But one of those reports was wrong because of a problem with the State Board of Elections’ processing software.  This post contains updated information.

Shortly after our original post, we received the following communication from Council At-Large candidate Hoan Dang’s campaign.

Hi Adam, this is Jonathon Rowland, campaign manager for Hoan Dang.  Thank you for the article this morning.  I just want to correct the amount stated.  When we filed with the Board of Elections, our report was duplicated because of a glitch in the system giving us double the amount of donations.  We have been in contact with the Board of Elections since Monday to resolve this issue.  The actual amount of donations is 316.

When your author called Rowland for more details, he said that the Dang campaign found the error first and asked the board to correct it.  Board staff acknowledged the mistake and said that they were working with their IT developer to fix it going forward.  No public funds were ever distributed before the Dang campaign caught the mistake.

Including information provided by Dang’s campaign today, here is the updated comparison of the five campaigns who have applied for public financing.

Dang is not the leader in public financing.  George Leventhal, who is running for Executive, is the overall leader in qualifying contributors and receipts.  (Executive candidates get higher match rates than council candidates.)  Among the council candidates, incumbent Hans Riemer leads in qualifying contributors and Bill Conway leads in matching funds.  This should not discount a strong performance by Dang, whose financial numbers are not terribly different from Riemer’s.

Going forward, we hope the state prevents the kinds of mistakes that affected Dang’s campaign.  In the initial glitchy filing, Dang supposedly requested $148,328 in public matching funds.  (Again, the IT glitch was not Dang’s fault.)  In the updated filing, Dang requested $74,144 in public matching funds.  That’s a $74,184 difference.  If Dang had not caught the mistake, could that difference have conceivably been paid out?  There’s no evidence available on that point.  But for the good of public confidence in the county’s public financing system, we hope such a mistake never happens.

On a different issue, we asked what happened to Council Member Marc Elrich’s filing for public matching funds in our original post.  Elrich said he had enough contributors to qualify back in June but has not filed yet.  When asked about it on Leventhal surrogate Saqib Ali’s Facebook page, Elrich said his delay in filing was related to a payment his campaign had made to the county party, which was subsequently ruled to not be in compliance with public financing requirements.  We reprint Elrich’s statement below.

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McCutcheon Comes to Maryland

Today, the State Board of Elections lifted the aggregate limits on the total amount that any individual could donate on state races in Maryland. Previously, donors could give only $10,000 total in any four-year election cycle. That is no longer the case.

This change is not due to a shift in Maryland law but to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in McCutcheon v. FEC, which invalidated the federal limits from the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002. The $4000 limit on the amount that can be donated to a single state candidate in Maryland remains in place–for now. This limit will increase to $6000 after the 2014 elections.

Lobbyists and wealthy people can expect to be hit up even more as they can no longer plead that they’ve maxed out. It’s also an invitation to extremely wealthy individuals who want to expand their influence in Maryland politics. Common Cause (h/t) outlined their view in a statement:

The State Board of Elections issued guidance today that eliminates the aggregate limits for campaign donations. This guidance was anticipated as the state grapples with the Supreme Court’s decision in McCutcheon, which was released last week.

“Before this guidance came out, donors could only give $10,000 for all their political spending – to candidates, political action committees, and slates,” said Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, executive director of Common Cause Maryland. “Eliminating that limit will have a direct and alarming influence on Maryland’s political landscape starting with this year’s election. The cost to run for office – particularly for down-ballot races, such as Delegate and County Council, will increase exponentially as a result.”

“The last defense we have against big money influencing our elections is the individual limit on donations to candidates,” said Bevan-Dangel. “We are very concerned about how the Board’s guidance will be implemented to ensure that donors do not use slates and political action committees to skirt that last line of defense.”

Individual limits are currently $4,000 but will increase to $6,000 starting in 2015.

“The Supreme Court’s decision in McCutcheon v. FEC was Citizens United round two, further opening the floodgates for the nation’s wealthiest few to drown out the voices of the rest of us,” said Bevan-Dangel. “This decision makes alternative fundraising mechanisms, such as public funding for elections, even more critical. Public funding empowers more diverse candidates to run because it gives an alternative to major donor fundraising. And it empowers everyday citizens to engage in the political process because it leverages their small donations and turns them into major donors.”

“We hope that the McCutcheon case spurs Montgomery County to act quickly on the public funding bill under consideration and encourages other counties and the state to establish alternate funding sources to ensure that the extremely wealthy cannot drown out the voice of everyday citizens in our political process.”

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