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Md. candidate for Congress exits amid voting flap

Monday - 9/10/2012, 10:39pm  ET

By BRIAN WITTE
Associated Press

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - A Democratic congressional candidate from Maryland dropped out Monday after that state's Democratic party said she had voted in both Maryland and Florida in the 2006 general election and in the 2008 presidential primaries.

Wendy Rosen confirmed by phone to the Associated Press that she was withdrawing from the 1st District congressional race in eastern Maryland, but did not elaborate beyond a statement to the media.

"Personal issues have made this the hardest decision that I have had to make," she said in a statement.

Her withdrawal comes amid a national debate over whether voter fraud is a major problem, and whether the efforts of some states to require more identification may suppress turnout by the young, elderly and minorities in elections. It's unclear whether voter ID laws would prevent someone from casting ballots in two states for the same national election.

Rosen, 57-year-old Miami native who now lives in Cockeysville, Md., was running against first-term Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Harris.

In a letter to Maryland's attorney general and the state prosecutor, Yvette Lewis, the chair of the Maryland Democratic Party, wrote that Rosen has been registered to vote in both Florida and Maryland since at least 2006. Lewis said in the letter that Rosen voted in the 2006 general election and in the 2008 presidential primaries in both Florida and Maryland.

"This information is based on examination of the voter files from both states," Lewis wrote to Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler and State Prosecutor Emmitt Davitt. "We believe that this is a clear violation of Maryland law and urge the appropriate office to conduct a full investigation."

The state prosecutor's office would neither confirm nor deny an investigation, as is their standard practice. The attorney general's office referred questions to the state prosecutor.

Matthew Verghese, a spokesman for the Maryland Democratic Party, said party officials learned of Rosen's voting in both states from someone within the party on Friday night. The state party then looked into the allegations and became comfortable they were true. The party asked Rosen about them on Monday morning. The party demanded Rosen withdraw, Lewis said in a statement.

"Any effort to corrupt or misuse the electoral process is reprehensible, wrong and must not be tolerated," Lewis said.

Rosen told The Baltimore Sun that she had registered to vote in Florida several years ago in order to support a friend running for the St. Petersburg City Council and to vote on local issues there.

A spokesman for the Florida secretary of state's office noted that providing false information on a voter registration form is a felony in that state. Spokesman Chris Cote also said voting twice is a felony under federal law.

"Currently, there is not a system for states to check whether or not their voters are registered in other states," Cote said in an email. "However, the department has been discussing how to resolve the problem of dual registrations with other states and is seeking a solution. There is no excuse for a voter who has cast a ballot twice in an election, much less in two different states."

David Ferguson, executive director of the Maryland GOP, pounced on the revelations. He said Rosen should be fully prosecuted.

"This is another prime example of the prevalent culture of corruption in the Maryland Democrat Party," Ferguson said in a statement.

Maryland's 1st Congressional District includes all of Maryland's Eastern Shore and parts of Carroll, Baltimore, Harford and Cecil counties.

State officials say it's too late to take Rosen's name off the ballot. The deadline to decline a nomination is Aug. 28, said Donna Duncan, the board's election management director. The Maryland Democratic Party said it will work with the local Democratic Central Committees in the district to identify, designate and support a write-in candidate in November.

In May, Maryland became one of the first states to take part in the Electronic Registration Information Center, a partnership between the Pew Center on the States, state election officials and technology experts that aims to use available databases to keep voter registration lists current. Duncan noted that not all states are taking part in the initiative yet, and Maryland is still working to implement it.

Harris ousted Democratic U.S. Rep. Frank Kratovil Jr. in a 2010 rematch of their race in 2008. That year, the conservative Harris had wrested the GOP nomination from then-U.S. Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, a moderate who had served nine terms. During redistricting, Maryland lawmakers did not make a major effort to target Harris, opting instead to pack more Democratic voters into the 8th District represented by 86-year Republican U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett.

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