Responding to a request for voter rolls in a lawsuit by the government watchdog Judicial Watch aimed at election integrity, the state of Maryland came up with a unique excuse for not complying.
A package of interrogatories from the state was submitted to the court for Judicial Watch to answer.
It includes the demand: “Identify any Russian nationals or agents of the Russian government with whom you have communicated concerning this lawsuit, Judicial Watch’s request for a copy of the list of registered voters in Montgomery County, Maryland, the purposes for which you are seeking a copy of the list of registered voters in Montgomery County, Maryland, and/or any broader effort to obtain copies of similar lists from other jurisdictions of which Judicial Watch’s request for a copy of the list of registered voters in Montgomery County, Maryland, is a part.”
The demand is signed by Robert Scott, assistant attorney general, on behalf of Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh.
It also asks for the names of “actual or potential financial supporters of Judicial Watch” who have seen documents in the case, the names of anyone who participated in the decision to ask for the list, the names of all persons who were consulted “in any way,” and all communications with “any third party.”
Judicial Watch, which is on a campaign to encourage states to follow the National Voter Registration Act’s requirements to clean up voter lists, described the demands as extraordinary.
“Maryland officials have resorted to desperate measures to avoid giving Judicial Watch voter registration records – as required by federal law – by suggesting Judicial Watch is connected to Russian government agents,” the organization said Tuesday.
“The absurd implication was made in a federal court document involving a lawsuit filed last summer as part of a national Election Integrity Project to clean up voter rolls. Maryland is one of 11 states with more registered voters than citizens of voting age, according to U.S. Census Bureau data examined as part of Judicial Watch’s ongoing investigation.”
Judicial Watch identified areas in those states where there are more registered voters than citizens over the age of 18, statistics which on their face indicate there is a problem with the voter lists.
It warned lawsuits would be filed if the problems weren’t addressed.
One of the jurisdictions of concern was Montgomery County.
“Besides threatening legal action, Judicial Watch’s notice letter to election officials requested access to Montgomery County voter registration lists to evaluate efforts to ensure the accuracy of eligible voter rolls during the past two years,” the organization said.
“Section 8(i) of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) authorizes and entitles Judicial Watch to inspect and copy the requested voter lists,” it said.
However, Maryland officials refused, claiming their state law was more restrictive than the federal law, and information could be released only to Maryland’s registered voters.
“The NVRA trumps any reservation the state may have and Judicial Watch is confident it will obtain the records,” the organization said.
But Judicial Watch had to go to court anyway, where it was confronted with Maryland’s demand for the names of Russian agents.
“This week Judicial Watch responded to the plainly frivolous request as part of the pretrial process. There is not a shred of evidence or allegation in any pleading, document or even news report of any communications or associations between Judicial Watch and Russian nationals or agents of the Russian government,” the group explained.
“Maryland officials knew that when they made the egregious request for documents they believed did not exist solely to associate Judicial Watch with an inflammatory, partisan fight making national headlines. This reflects negatively on Lamone and the Maryland State Board of Elections and both should be ashamed,” the group said.
“It’s completely outrageous,” said Robert Popper, director of Judicial Watch’s Election Integrity Project and a former deputy chief of the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department. “A government agency is taking Democratic talking points to beat someone up for suing them.”
Other states with voter-registration list issues include Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina and Tennessee.
In California, for example, Judicial Watch found San Diego County’s voter lists had 138 percent of the number of voting-age residents.