“Emergency” Early Voting Regulations Invite Shenanigans

Just a month before the November election, State Board of Elections Administrator, Linda Lamone has issued “emergency regulations” allowing local election boards to report early voting totals before the polls officially close on election day.

While the regulations specifically prohibit results reports from being released to the public, the rules do not contain language prohibiting the results from being disseminated to elected officials or other government officials.

This invites shenanigans into our elections.

According to documents obtained from the Department of Legislative Services (DLS) and the General Assembly’s Joint Administrative, Executive, Legislative Review (AELR) committee the proposed regulations state:

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At 2 p.m. on election day, a local board may begin printing totals reports and aggregating early voting results as provided… the local board has submitted a written security plan to the State Administrator at least 45 days before the election that provides procedures that will be taken to ensure that election results will not be released to the public prior to the end of the election; and the State Administrator has reviewed and approved the plan.

These emergency regulations appear to be designed to address the technical and procedural issues the state board faced processing early voting results the night of the primary election.

However, there are two huge problems with these proposed regulations.

First, while the regulations prohibit a release of results to the public, they are silent regarding prohibitions on reporting elected officials–incumbents–or other government officials receiving early voting results.

What’s to stop an incumbent elected official from receiving, or another government official from feeding to them early voting reports? This would give the incumbent an advantage in knowing where to shift their election day resources over their opponent.

Given what we know about the O’Malley administration’s shady actions scrubbing the July jobs report, including using untraceable PIN to PIN communications, we have no faith in the O’Malley administration to not take advantage of this regulatory competitive advantage.

Second, it is impossible for the local boards and meet the 45-day requirement–before the November election–for submitting a security plan, nor for Lamone to approve the plan.

Lamone is asking that the emergency regulations go into effect October 22, 2010 and expire on February 28, 2011.

Unless a member of the AELR committee requests a public hearing on the regulations, the committee will vote on them on October 15.

Early Voting

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