Controversial GOP nominee wins Senate confirmation for Board of Elections post

March 30, 2024

Maryland Matters

The Maryland Senate voted to confirm a Republican nominee to the State Board of Elections despite objections from a dozen lawmakers who said she was unfit to serve on the panel.

The 32-12 vote clears the way for Diane Butler to serve on the board. The Ellicott City resident faced additional scrutiny because of a social media post and emails attributed to the former Howard County elections official.

Senate Education, Energy, and the Environment Committee Vice Chair Cheryl C. Kagan (D-Montgomery). Photo by Bryan P. Sears.

“I think one of the qualifications that we need to consider when selecting members of the state board of elections is their temperament,” said Senate Education, Energy, and the Environment Committee Vice Chair Cheryl C. Kagan (D-Montgomery), who spoke at length in opposition to the nominee Friday. “Another is their judgment. I have found this nominee to be severely lacking on both.”

Kagan is a leading voice on election issues in the Senate.

“I have made a lot of calls, frankly to Republicans and mostly to those in Howard County who know this nominee best and the words that have come up include ‘inappropriate,’ ‘litigious,’ and they talk about overstepping and boundaries,” Kagan said.

Nominees to the state and local boards of elections have faced tougher reviews following three failed Republican appointments to the state board.

The most notable is Carlos Ayala, an Eastern Shore resident, who initially impressed even Kagan.


Ayala resigned in January after being indicted in federal court for allegedly participating directly in the violence at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Last year, Moore nixed the Republican Party’s nomination of William T. Newton to the state elections board, saying the perennial candidate for office “does not meet our internal vetting standards.”

Following Newton, the Senate Executive Nominations Committee rejected the nomination of Christine McCloud, a Howard County hypnotherapist whose election experience was limited to working for one candidate at a poll in the prior election. The committee cited concerns about McCloud’s voting record, which included voting in only one primary and four general elections since 2010.

Michelle Ewing, a Republican nominee to the Talbot County elections board, withdrew after it became apparent that she too would not be recommended for confirmation by the Senate committee.

Butler faced tough questions earlier this month over a social media post and emails attributed to her.

In one 2021 post about mask mandates during the COVID pandemic, a comment attributed to Butler compared the masks to “Nazi armbands.”

Butler, during her March 12 testimony, said she could not remember the post.

In other 2021 emails, Butler writes to a state board of elections staff member raising concerns about custody of ballots, absentee balloting, and staffing.

The recipient of the email was redacted before it was obtained by Maryland Matters.

In that same May 2021 email, Butler raises concerns about budget issues and some grants Howard County, and some other local elections boards received from a nonprofit associated with Facebook.

In a 2024 email, Butler asked questions on behalf of a person involved with the Maryland Voter Integrity Group. On its website, the group alleged “serious anomalies” in four Maryland counties in the 2020 election.

The group also raised questions about the use of an “algorithm” and that data shows a “drop of a large number of votes at 11:15 pm on Election Day.”

In a September 2021 post, the group announced a petition for a “full forensic audit of 2020 election votes in Maryland similar to one conducted in Arizona.”

Butler, however, was defended by Republicans and some Democrats on the Senate floor Friday.

Senate Minority Whip Justin Ready (R-Carroll and Frederick) called Butler “a good person” who was qualified for the job because of her time on the local board of elections. He downplayed the emails.

Ready said senators should “should be careful about the idea that if someone expresses strong opinions about things dealing with election processes, that that is in some way the same as, you know, Jan. 6 or whatever,” said Ready. “I feel that that sometimes gets thrown out a little bit quickly that if you question, ‘Hey, we should maybe have a little better security for this process or at the first election in 2020,’ where we had widespread mailed ballots, there were people who, internally for the board of elections that were like, ‘you know, I think our process needs some work.’ That’s appropriate for someone who’s on a board of elections. This person is qualified.”

Sen. Jim Rosapepe (D-Prince George’s and Anne Arundel) agreed with Ready.

“The nominee was asked tough questions and gave very direct, coherent and responsive answers. That’s number one,” said Rosapepe, who is a member of the Senate Executive Nominations Committee. “Number two is one of the great things about our country is we have parties, and our parties are different from each other, in many ways, different interests, different values, and a common commitment to our country. But we want real Republicans in the Republican seats, and we want real Democrats in the seats. And I think that’s essentially what we have here. And therefore, I’m very comfortable voting for confirmation.”