The Maryland State Board of Elections on Friday asked Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) to weigh in on whether Krishanti Vignarajah, a former policy aide for Michelle Obama who entered the governor’s race this week, is a Maryland registered voter, which is a requirement for running for governor.
Shortly after Vignarajah’s announced her candidacy on Wednesday, questions were raised about whether she is legally eligible to seek the office. Under the state constitution, a candidate for governor must be at least 30 years old and have been both a Maryland resident and registered voter for the five years immediately preceding the election.
Vignarajah registered to vote in the District in 2010 and has voted there multiple times, including during the 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014 election cycles.
According to the Maryland State Board of Elections, Vignarajah also is registered to vote in Maryland. She has voted once in the state — in the 2016 general election — since she registered in 2006.
State records show that the Baltimore County Board of Elections sent a request to Vignarajah’s Catonsville address in February 2015 asking her to confirm her registration status. Because she did not reply, she was listed as inactive. If she had not voted last year, the state would have canceled her registration after the 2020 election.
Vignarajah, 37, did not return a call late Friday seeking comment about the request from the State Board of Elections. Steve Rabin, a spokesman for her campaign, also did not return a call for comment.
“I am legally eligible to run,” Vignarajah said earlier in the day on the Kojo Nmandi radio show on WAMU-FM (88.5).
The request from the state board does not mention Vignarajah by name. Instead, it seeks advice on whether a person who registered in the state but later voted in another jurisdiction would be considered a Maryland registered voter.
The answer could determine whether Vignarajah, the only woman in a crowded field of Democratic candidates, can remain in the race.
Mary Wagner, voter registration director for the state board, said Friday that the board would have canceled Vignarajah’s voter registration if D.C. officials had notified the state that she had registered to vote in the District.
During the radio interview, Vignarajah refused to say why she registered to vote in the District while also registered in Maryland.
She said that she had a “crash pad” in the District while she was working in the Obama administration but that Maryland was her primary residence.
When Vignarajah was told that she may have violated D.C. law and could be subject to a $10,000 fine for registering in the District while being registered in another jurisdiction, she said: “I think we need to focus on what I’m here to talk about, that is I’m running for governor of Maryland. In terms of the requirements to run, I have been a registered voter in Maryland for far longer than is required to run.”
Vignarajah repeated that she was “absolutely legally eligible to run” for governor.
She said that she consulted legal experts and elected officials “to make sure I wasn’t throwing my hat in the ring for no good reason.”
The D.C. voter registration form requires applicants to declare their eligibility, including by checking a box and signing their names to a statement that they do “not claim voting residence outside of the District of Columbia.” The D.C. Board of Elections’ website also notes that registered voters must “not claim the right to vote in any other state or territory.”