Republican legislators are back again, pushing controversial voter identification laws after failed attempts in prior years. Sponsored by Republican Dels. Nic Kipke, Kathy Afzali and 32 other Republicans, but no Democrats, the contentious bill sparked heated debate last week in the House Ways & Means Committee. “HB 137 is a very familiar subject to many of us in this room,” Kipke told the committee. “I think most of us have differing views, but I believe requiring proof of identity on election day is a good thing for our election integrity.” Kipke, Afzali and others supporting voter ID laws view the initiative as a solution to what they see as the widespread problem of voter fraud, which Democrats insist is rare.
The first and only witness brought in to testify in support of voter ID, Cathy Kelleher of Election Integrity Maryland, stood before the committee to share her organization’s discoveries of the threat of voting fraud. “Of 36,000 voter registrations researched, 11,000 challenges identifying irregularities in the registrations were documented at both state and local levels of the Board of Elections,” Kelleher said. “All our research points to one thing. Efforts to protect the integrity of the vote in Maryland are failing.”
Some committee members were skeptical of her data. Del. Kumar Barve, the House majority leader, pushed her to define the term “irregularity,” which seemed to include registrations with minor misspellings in a person’s address or name. “You threw out the number of 11,000 and I’m willing to bet you we could account for every one of those things with a logical explanation and in none of those instances is there an instance, I’ll bet, where there is actual voter fraud,” said Barve, D-Montgomery.