ANNAPOLIS, Md. — An election hotline and email account dedicated to receive complaints of voter intimidation and harassment in Maryland during the 2020 presidential election received few reports.
Capital News Service through a Public Information Act request obtained records of 27 complaints received by the attorney general’s office reporting incidents of what callers and emailers suspected were some form of voter intimidation or harassment.
Here are a few examples of the messages received:
—Flyers warning non-U.S. citizens of the legal penalties of voting in a U.S. election were posted at a Montgomery County high school.
—One emailer reported a man in La Plata was “asking everyone who they are voting for and why and trying to intimidate people into voting for trump (sic).”
—One voice caller reported her son was intimidated by a woman who said she was with the Democratic party. The caller said her son was asked by the woman who he was voting for, and when he told her, the woman began cursing at him. The woman said her son got in his truck and left the polling place.
—One woman reported a mysterious letter addressed to her husband. The text of the letter was printed from a computer, typed in all capital letters and reads:
“PROUD BOY, STAND BACK. STAND DOWN. VOTER INTIMIDATION IS UNLAWFUL AND ANTI- CONSTITUTIONAL. AND DANGEROUS — TO THE INTIMIDATORS. #MOREGUNSTHANU”
The woman wrote in the email that her husband “never has and never would have any association with the ‘Proud Boys’ group.” She told the attorney general she filed a report with the Cecil County Sheriff’s Office. There is no political signage in her yard, she wrote.
The Cecil County Sheriff’s office did not return calls asking about the report.
—At least three complainants contacted the attorney general’s office because of a robocall they said told them to “Stay home. Stay safe.”
Contact email addresses and phone numbers were redacted.
Attorney General Brian Frosh, D, in an Oct. 14 press statement reminded citizens that voter intimidation violates state and federal law and that “anyone attempting to violate these laws will be held accountable and prosecuted.” His office designated a voter intimidation hotline and an email address for voters to register complaints, and posted guidance on voter intimidation laws on the office’s website.
Voter harassment and intimidation is illegal and will not be tolerated in Maryland. Read my latest guidance and report instances of voter intimidation or harassment to my office. Full Release: https://t.co/GPm67AUfg6 pic.twitter.com/QyhTf8MnhN
— Brian Frosh (@BrianFrosh) October 14, 2020
Frosh’s Twitter account tweeted or retweeted 14 messages about voter intimidation after the Oct. 14 press release through Election Day.
One Nov. 3 tweet referenced misleading robocalls: “There are reports of robocalls and text messages being sent across the country that are intended to mislead and discourage people from going to the polls. Ignore these calls.”
There are reports of robocalls and text messages being sent across the country that are intended to mislead and discourage people from going to the polls. Ignore these calls. It is safe to vote, and TODAY is the last day to vote. If you have not yet voted, make your voice heard.
— Brian Frosh (@BrianFrosh) November 3, 2020
The attorney general’s office was not able to comment on individual complaints or confirm whether any of the complaints received violated state or federal law.
A spokeswoman for Frosh’s office said any complaints of voter intimidation “may have been forwarded to the Maryland State Prosecutor for further action,” but would not say whether any had been forwarded. Instances that did not rise to the level of voter intimidation may have been forwarded to the local boards of election, the spokeswoman said.
Maryland state attorneys general have had voter complaint hotlines during past elections. The number of complaints received this presidential election was “relatively small,” according to the spokeswoman.
Under Maryland law, the Maryland State Prosecutor’s office has jurisdiction over election violations.
While the state prosecutor would not confirm the receipt of any election-related complaints, he said allegations of wrongdoing would be addressed.
“If there’s any evidence indicating voter intimidation or any other crime—if we do find the evidence and determine it merits prosecution—then we would prosecute those cases,” said Charlton Howard, who was appointed by Gov. Larry Hogan, R, in 2019.
The 2020 presidential election in Maryland, Howard said, went “smoothly and professionally.”
“I think we had great cooperation with our federal and state partners, on both the law enforcement and also with the local boards of election,” he said.
Common Cause Maryland, a nonpartisan fair-elections advocate, trained and dispatched more than 1,000 volunteers to polling places in 22 counties. Volunteers were asked to report any sightings of voter intimidation or harassment through a group communication app at the end of their shifts.
A spokeswoman for the organization said no incidents were reported.