Time to clean house City election board: Voting fraud by staffers suggests false registrations are common.

March 07, 1996

VOTING IRREGULARITIES are such a long-standing Maryland tradition that even nowadays citizens are sometimes jokingly urged to "vote early and vote often." Yet it comes as a shock that four workers of the Baltimore City board of elections themselves fraudulently voted in the city long after they had moved to the surrounding counties.

The conviction of those four -- who were fined, given probation before judgment and ordered to resign unless they move back to the city by the end of the year -- is just the latest scandal that brings shame to the election board and raises questions about how fairly ballots are conducted in the city. It is well past the time for an overhaul.

The four election board workers retained their city registration long after they had moved to the suburbs because residency was a condition of their employment. They at least had a reason for their fraudulent registration. More common are people who have moved out of Baltimore but still vote in the city because they are more familiar with local politics and think their votes are more relevant here.

Whatever the excuse, this practice is illegal. That it persists, presumably on a larger scale, is due to the local election officials' unwillingness and inability to root out voters who have disqualified themselves.

This situation underscores how urgent it is to implement the recommendations of a gubernatorial task force, headed by former U.S. attorney George Beall, that urged the centralization of Maryland's voting rolls.

Local election boards are among the last relics of a blatant cronyism system that was the hallmark of machine-era politics. Officials routinely did favors for kingpins; nepotism in hiring was rampant. If the politically appointed administrators cannot run a clean and orderly shop, they should be replaced with more competent bureaucrats who can.

Pub Date: 3/07/96

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