State audit finds felons wrongly voted in 2010 election

Though felons are prohibited from voting in Maryland, 15 of them cast ballots in the 2010 gubernatorial election, according to a recently released audit.

The finding in an Office of Legislative Audits' report criticized the State Board of Elections, saying the agency "did not have an effective process to ensure that individuals serving a sentence for a felony conviction were removed from the voter registration database, as required by law."

Each month, the board receives a list from the judiciary of all convictions and must manually sort out misdemeanors, which don't exclude people from going to the polls. Felons, including those serving parole or probation, face up to five years in prison if they vote.

Auditors found that since 2003, the judiciary's report didn't include felons for one large county, but the board did not detect the omissions until 2012.

Auditors also found that the board was not removing names of those who violated the terms of probation and had been given extended sentences. The audit said that between October 2011 and March 2012, more than 380 people had violated probation but were not removed from voter lists. In some cases, auditors found that sentences had been extended up to eight years.

The elections board responded by saying that "sentencing information, and in particular probation and parole information, can be difficult to interpret from a summary and cannot be relied upon to determine with accuracy when a felony sentence has been fully served."

The board said that trying to evaluate the information "would be administratively burdensome, susceptible to error, and of limited utility in improving the accuracy of the voter registration."

But auditors urged the board to use all sources of information and ask for more if it isn't provided.

Board officials said they are working with the judiciary to obtain only the names of those convicted with felonies to prevent future errors. They will require local elections boards to contact voters to determine if a sentence is complete.

The state board also said it informed the Office of the State Prosecutor, which investigates election law crimes, of the 15 felons who should not have voted.

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