Officials in Md., Va. investigate report that 164 voted in both states

The State Board of Elections has alerted the Office of the State Prosecutor to a report that 164 people voted in both Maryland and Virginia in the November 2012 presidential election, in violation of the law.

Election officials confirmed Thursday that the referral included 17 cases in which the Fairfax County, Va., elections board investigated the report by outside advocacy groups and said they found that ballots had been cast in that county and in Maryland in the same voters' names. Fairfax officials have referred that finding to four federal and Virginia criminal investigation agencies.

A spokesman for the District of Columbia elections board said his agency is working with the Maryland state prosecutor to look into an unspecified number of cases in which voters might have cast votes in both Washington and Maryland.

Authorities in Maryland an Virginia are acting on information generated by two conservative advocacy groups, Election Integrity Maryland and the Virginia Voters Alliance. With the Virginia group taking the lead, the groups used a computer program to comb the voter rolls in both states. They say they have identified about 44,000 people registered in both states, and 164 who cast ballots in both in 2012.

"We are concerned that these voters are going to be able to continue to do this until they are prosecuted," said Cathy Kelleher, president of the Maryland group.

A spokesman for Maryland's state prosecutor said he could neither confirm nor deny that an investigation had been launched.

Nikki Baines Charlson, deputy administrator of the state elections board, said the agency is letting Virginia authorities take the lead in looking into the reports of double-voting. When the board received the list of 164 possible double voters from the advocates, she said, it forwarded them to the state prosecutor. She said the board will assist investigators by helping them obtain any documents they need.

Charlson said the elections board often receives reports of double voting that do not check out. Often what appears to be an attempt by a voter to cast two ballots turns out to be an error by an election judge.

But some of the findings in Fairfax County may be difficult to explain.

Brian Schoeneman, secretary of the Fairfax County board, said the agency looked at all 17 cases brought to it by the Virginia Voters Alliance and worked with elections officials in Montgomery County to check them against Maryland voting records.

He said the board matched up names, dates of birth and the last four digits of Social Security numbers and found matches indicating double votes in each case.

Ten of the 17 voters were found to have cast double votes in more than one election, Schoeneman said. He said two voters apparently cast double votes in four elections and one in five. He said most of the cases involved votes cast in Prince George's and Montgomery counties, but at least five were from the Baltimore area.

In 14 of the cases, Schoeneman said, the voters apparently went to polling places in both states. In three cases, the voter cast a ballot in person in one state and submitted an absentee ballot in the other, he said.

Schoeneman, a Republican, said the bipartisan board decided unanimously to send letters of referral to the commonwealth's attorney in Fairfax, the Virginia attorney general's office, the U.S. attorney's office in Alexandria and the Public Integrity Section of the Justice Department.

A message left at commonwealth's attorney's offices was not returned, and a spokesman for the Justice Department and U.S. attorney said federal prosecutors don't comment on investigations. A spokesman for Virginia's Democratic attorney general, Mark Herring, said his office is reviewing the information.

"We are aware of the allegations and we certainly take them seriously even though legitimate cases of voter fraud are statistically very rare," spokesman Michael Kelly said.

Allegations of voter fraud tend to be politically contentious. Republicans contend it is a widespread problem and demand stricter voter ID laws. Democrats say it is rare, and tend to oppose measures that make it harder to vote.

Election fraud is a felony in Virginia but a misdemeanor in Maryland — something Kelleher wants the General Assembly to change.

"It's a crime that robs me of my vote," she said.

michael.dresser@baltsun.com