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.
"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