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  • Writer's pictureSam Orlando

Maryland Election Board Faces Legal Challenge Over Voter List Access and Usage Regulations

Plaintiffs Katherine Strauch Sullivan and David Morsberger file a lawsuit against Maryland election officials, citing concerns over voter list maintenance and first amendment rights.

Written by: Sam Orlando

Voter Registration Records at Crux of Legal Fight

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - In a significant legal challenge to the Maryland State Board of Elections, plaintiffs Katherine Strauch Sullivan and David Morsberger, represented by their counsel, have filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland. The case, which revolves around the board's regulations on the usage of voter registration records, raises profound questions about citizen engagement in democratic processes, the maintenance of accurate voter lists, and the boundaries of constitutional rights.

The Complaint

The plaintiffs, both Maryland residents, argue that recent actions by the Maryland State Board of Elections risk undermining the integrity of state elections. They assert that the board has failed to maintain accurate and up-to-date voter registration records, a concern substantiated by an October 2023 report from the Maryland General Assembly's Office of Legislative Audits. The report highlighted deficiencies in the board's list maintenance practices, including instances of deceased individuals associated with active registrations and potential duplicate registrations.

The Core of the Dispute

At the heart of the lawsuit is a regulation adopted by the Maryland State Board of Elections that categorically prohibits using voter registration records for "investigations." This regulation requires those requesting voter lists to sign an affidavit agreeing not to use the information for any such investigations. The plaintiffs argue that this regulation infringes upon their federally protected rights under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) and violates their First Amendment rights by discriminating based on the viewpoint of their investigative activities.

The Legal Argument

The plaintiffs' legal argument is threefold. They contend that the regulation obstructs the objectives of the NVRA, discriminates based on viewpoint in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments, and exceeds the regulatory authority granted to the Maryland State Board of Elections by state law. They maintain that their door-to-door efforts to verify voter registration accuracy are deeply rooted in American tradition and are protected both by the Constitution and federal law.

Response and Implications

The lawsuit has put a spotlight on the critical balance between maintaining accurate voter registration lists and respecting the constitutional rights of citizens to engage in political advocacy and oversight. The plaintiffs seek a declaration that the board's regulation is invalid and an injunction against its enforcement, arguing that it stands in the way of ensuring free, fair, and efficient elections.

As the case progresses through the federal court in Maryland, its outcome could have far-reaching implications for how voter registration records can be used by citizens and could redefine the scope of citizen oversight in the electoral process.

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