Maryland elections board chair to resign, urges panel to oversee elections all can view as ‘fair and honest’

Michael Cogan, a Republican who chaired Maryland’s State Board of Elections during one of the most contentious elections in the nation’s history, announced he’ll resign from the board in February.

A five-year member of the board, Cogan and his fellow board members oversaw the state’s first election held primarily by mail in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and coordinated a hybrid election in the fall that saw a record number of voters across the state participate.


“The word ‘unprecedented’ is thrown around a lot, and it’s useful. But I think it understates what we went through,” Cogan said. “What we were faced with was doing things in a completely different way, under an extremely compressed time schedule.”

Cogan, a Queen Anne’s County resident, said at a board meeting Tuesday that he will be moving out of state.

Michael Cogan is Chairman of The Maryland State Board of Elections

Prone to lengthy and impassioned speeches during his tenure on the board, Cogan, a former prosecutor and U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, warned fellow board members at the end of the meeting that it is not sufficient for an election to be fair and honest. It must also appear to be so, he said.

“We must make these decisions while understanding that good people can in good faith disagree over the nuts and bolts of the electoral process,” said Cogan. “We must decide each time that our elections will be fair and honest. We must decide each time that our elections will be seen by everyone to be fair and honest.”

Cogan’s remarks came nearly a week after a violent mob of Republican President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, forcing legislators to take shelter and halting the congressional certification of the results of the presidential election. A U.S. Capitol Police officer died as a result of the insurrection, as did four participants. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have called for Trump’s removal, as he urged the crowd to march on the Capitol.

Immediately after his remarks Tuesday, Cogan disclosed political donations he made since the board’s December meeting, something board members routinely announce. Recipients included Trump, U.S. Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler of Georgia and other Republicans.

Cogan is the second member of the board to depart following the November election. Kelley Howells, a Republican member from Prince George’s County, resigned in December. A member of the board since 2015, Howells is a graduate of the University of Maryland law school and former candidate for state senate. She was the only woman on the board.

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan is responsible for filling vacancies on the board, although the state’s two major political parties typically recommend candidates and the governor’s choices need the approval of the state Senate. The board is made up of three Republicans and two Democrats.

Hogan has nominated Severn Miller, who attended Tuesday’s meeting, as Howells’ replacement.