State officials said Monday that as many as 80,000 voters — nearly quadruple the original estimate — will have to file provisional ballots Tuesday because the state Motor Vehicle Administration failed to transmit updated voter information to the state Board of Elections.
State officials originally said that 18,700 Maryland voters would be affected by what they called a programming error.
They said late Monday that they recently learned the problem was more widespread.
“In our sense of urgency to inform the public given the close proximity of the primary election, the numbers that were initially reported did not accurately reflect the total scope of the people impacted,” MVA Administrator Christine Nizer said in statement. “Upon further review and analysis, we discovered that the initial data provided did not include all those impacted.”
The state’s announcement of the increased number of voters that could be affected at the polls Tuesday resulted in a swift response from the two state lawmakers who chair committees that deal with election law.
Sen. Joan Carter Conway (D-Baltimore City), chairwoman of the Senate Education, Health and Environment Committee, and Del. Anne R. Kaiser (D-Montgomery County), chairwoman of the House Ways and Means Committee, issued a joint statement demanding the immediate resignation of Nizer and “anyone else who was part of the Hogan administration’s attempt to sweep this under the rug.”
Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery), a candidate in the gubernatorial race, also called for Nizer’s resignation, calling the incorrect registration of thousands of voters a “catastrophic failure.”
“The chaos being created by this failure subjects real harm to our most cherished democratic values,” he said in a statement.
On Sunday, Conway blamed the issue on the Hogan administration and called for a hearing in July to investigate. She accused state officials of creating a situation that will “confuse voters, suppress turnout, and disenfranchise thousands of Marylanders.”
Amelia Chasse, a spokeswoman for Gov. Larry Hogan (R), rejected any idea that the glitch was deliberate and noted that the state Board of Elections runs independently.
Chasse said in a statement late Monday that the administration was “incredibly disappointed” that this happened. She said Hogan has directed the auditor for the state Department of Transportation to conduct a review and ordered leadership to participate in legislative hearings.
“What matters most is that every single voter will be able to vote, and every vote will be counted,” she said.
The Board of Elections said it has sent nearly 74,000 email messages to the affected voters who had email addresses on file with the Motor Vehicle Administration, urging them to contact the Board of Elections to make sure their voter registration is up to date.
Damon Effingham, acting director of the Maryland chapter of Common Cause, said it was “preposterous” that it took MVA officials four days to figure out the extent of the problem and that there is no system to ensure that its system is working properly.
“Did people have an issue during early voting?” Effingham said. “If one person had a difficult time voting, that’s one too many.”
Effingham said the issue illustrates the need for Election Day registration. The General Assembly this year passed a bill that will allow voters to decide whether to amend the state constitution to allow it. The question will be on the ballot in November.
The Maryland Democratic Party issued a statement over the weekend assuring voters that every vote would be counted and that the party’s attorneys will be staffing a voter protection hotline on Election Day.