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Mailing Causes Consternation for Some Voters

State Board of Elections mails 1.1 million Maryland Voters in an effort to increase voter registration across the state.

UPDATED (2:48 p.m.)—A postcard mailed by the Maryland State Board of Elections has caused concern for some Maryland voters and increased work for local boards of elections.

The post card, mailed last week, was part of an effort by the Maryland State Board of Elections to verify voter registration records and register eligible voters, according to Ross Goldstein, deputy administrator for the state board of elections.

The agency attempted to match data between the voter registration rolls and state drivers license records.

"As with any data match, there were a number of false positives," said Goldstein.

About 1.1 million post cards were mailed. The state board of elections estimates the mailing was 98 percent accurate—meaning it reached residents who were eligible but not registered to vote.

Some of those estimated 22,000 "false positives" were the result of voters registering to vote under nickname while using their more formal name for their drivers license—something as simple as the difference between "Larry" and "Lawrence," said Goldstein.

Another set of "false positive" matches was generated by people who registered to vote under older laws that did not require a full date of birth.

"People who registered decades ago were only required to provide their age so we didn't have good dates of birth for them," said Goldstein.

The "false positives" generated a number of calls to some local boards of elections from confused and irritated voters.

Katie Brown, director of the Baltimore County Board of Elections, said part of the intention was to root out inconsistencies in the voter registrations.

"It was a good idea but it may have been bad timing," Brown said.

Martha Thaniel received one of the mailings last week.

"I've been voting for 50 years and I've never had a problem," said Thaniel, a 68-year-old Towson resident. "I was really upset when I got this. I've been registered for 50 years and I intend to vote in November."

Brown said in many cases the problems discovered in the records verification were small issues like the use of a middle initial on one record but not on another. In other cases, the issues were more serious, such as a non-matching birthday.

The more serious issues require voters to re-register. The deadline for registering or re-registering to vote is Oct. 16.

It's not known how many of the county's nearly 500,000 registered voters received a postcard from the state board of elections.

There are more than 3.5 million registered voters in Maryland, according to the most recent state board of elections statistics from August.

The mailings caused an increase in phone calls to the Baltimore County Board of Elections, Brown said.

"It was crazy last week with all the calls and we're getting some this week," Brown said. "People were very upset. Most of the feedback from staff was that these were simple issues and a new registration was not needed."

Thaniel said she never found out what triggered the post card for her but she did not have to re-register to vote. Not that she would have been deterred.

"Even if [the board of elections] didn't say it was 'OK' I was going up there to vote," Thaniel said. "They were just going to have to stop the line."

Goldstein said that overall, the program was successful.

"We've definitely seen an uptick in voter registration," said Goldstein

Steve October 20, 2012 at 01:32 PM
Cashing checks at the bank isn't protected by the Constitution is it?
CB9678 October 20, 2012 at 06:35 PM
Steve not everyone has a state ID card. In states like Virginia no one complains about their ID law because they accept a wide array of documents and not all of them need to have a photo. It is the state ID only laws that draw the most consternation and the ones that put up obstacles to obtaining those ID's like you can only obtain one for free on the 5th Wednesday of the month before noon (yes one of the newer laws was written like that). Only 18 States do not require or request an ID. BTW you are just as gulty as your illegal friend in my book. You enable her extended stay by not turning her in. As to the check are her children US Citizens?
CB9678 October 20, 2012 at 06:44 PM
B.Allen Banks frequently take a wide array of non photo ID's as well. When Voter ID laws are written and implemented properly no one has an issue or questions intent. When they are rushed within a year of the election and make getting a free ID a challenge than we question the intent and timing. No one cares about Georgia's law or Indiana's because it is well implemented.
Leslie Schildgen October 22, 2012 at 05:56 PM
Kathy: I don't have time during the work day to take this blog that seriously to "fact check". Get a life
Kathy October 23, 2012 at 09:05 AM
It is easier just to spread misinformation without checking for accuracy, but your grades will reflect that when you get into high school. (I assume from the tenor of your remarks that you are currently in 7th or 8th grade? It was the "get a life" comment that gave it away.) But as I used to tell my children, it is not nice to call people "stupid."

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