April 19, 2018
Politics & Opinion
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Board Of Elections Audit Is Shocking

Meagan Simonaire
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June 14, 2017

A recent independent audit of our State Board of Elections (SBE) revealed some disturbing findings. As a member of the election law subcommittee in the House of Delegates, I have called for a public joint legislative hearing to address the deficiencies, allow for questioning of the board, review any corrective actions and provide the public with assurances concerning the integrity of our election system.

Time is of the essence, especially since elections are being conducted this year, such as the Annapolis mayoral race, where the last election was decided by a handful of votes.

There were many findings in the audit, but I will highlight three that really concerned me.

Fraudulent Absentee Ballots

The state audit found that “SBE did not adequately authenticate voters who requested absentee ballots during primary and general elections.” It further highlighted that “SBE lacked assurance that the person requesting the absentee ballot … is the registered voter that they purported to be. Consequently, the risk exists that an individual or group could submit fraudulent absentee ballots.”

With all the talk about potential voter fraud, this is a major flaw in our system that could easily allow for fraudulent voting.

Voter Accuracy Not Ensured

Moreover, the audit found that the “SBE did not have a comprehensive oversight process in place to ensure the accuracy of the data recorded” in the MDVOTERS database.

The SBE receives a list of ineligible voters every month from various sources. This information is given to the local boards of election, but the SBE did not verify that the local boards were purging their databases. The SBE is responsible for the accuracy of the statewide voter data, yet they only “hoped” local authorities were purging their databases and did not provide any verification or oversight.

There is an old saying, “Trust but verify.” After allowing individuals to vote on Election Day without providing any proof of identification, the SBE must do a better job at ensuring our voter rolls are current.

Without such verifications, thousands of ineligible voters could still be registered in each county.

Risk of Identity Theft

Finally, the audit also found that the “SBE unnecessarily retained personally identifiable information within the MDVOTERS database. … As of August 8, 2016, the MDVOTERS database contained names and the full nine-digit social security numbers [SSN] for 592,236 (or 14 percent) of the more than 4,100,000 voters (active and inactive) in this database, even though the full SSN is neither necessary nor required for voter registration purposes.”

With all the security breaches in businesses and government, it is concerning that the SBE would retain nine-digit social security numbers along with our full name, address, etc. Furthermore, the SBE specifically instructed personnel to store all nine digits of the social security number unencrypted even though policy only required the last four digits.

Given the current tensions surrounding the integrity of our elections, a public hearing is not only warranted but necessary. The audit revealed serious issues regarding the accuracy of voter data and the inability to ensure the identity of those voting absentee. Data integrity and voter fraud protections are at the core of democratic elections. Prompt action must be taken to safeguard the integrity in our election process.

Likewise, the government should never store any unnecessary sensitive personal information in any state database! To be fair, SBE is working to address these issues identified by the state audit. Notwithstanding, I take these issues seriously and that is why I am calling for a public hearing on the BOE audit.

If you have any questions, contact my office at 410-841-3206 or meagan.simonaire@house.state.md.us.

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