Maryland election administrator Linda Lamone to retire after 26 years

March 29, 2023

Baltimore Sun

Linda Lamone, Maryland’s longtime election administrator who some officials dubbed the state’s election chief “for life,” will call it quits this year after more than two decades in the post.

Lamone, 80, who was named administrator in 1997 during the administration of Democratic Gov. Parris Glendening, announced her departure Wednesday during a Maryland State Board of Elections meeting. She will step down around Sept. 1.

“I loved this job. It was not always easy, but through Republican and Democratic administrations, through COVID, cyberthreats, redistricting, changing election dates and changing voter behavior, we delivered for the voters of Maryland,” said Lamone, appearing from her home office during a virtual meeting of the board.

The State Board of Elections, whose five members are selected by the governor, will pick a replacement. Their choice will need confirmation by the state Senate. Under the proposed state budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, the position’s salary range is $120,000 to $166,364.

Lamone made $163,000 in 2022, according to Adam Abadir, a spokesman for the state comptroller’s office.

Her departure comes after years of squelching attempts to oust her. In 2004, after months of pressure from Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., the state board suspended Lamone and voted behind closed doors to remove her for “incompetence, misconduct or other good cause.”

Democratic leaders rose to Lamone’s defense, calling the move “a blatant abuse of political power.”

Lamone survived the attempted coup, winning a temporary injunction to keep her in office after a judge ruled that removing her ahead of the 2004 presidential election would create chaos. A mediator ultimately brokered a compromise that kept Lamone in the position.

Since then, Lamone has been protected by what came to be known as the “Linda Lamone for Life Law,” which made future attempts to remove her even more difficult. The law allows an administrator to continue in office until the Senate confirms a successor.

That protection has proved useful, as Lamone weathered further criticism while the State Board of Elections shifted gears amid a pandemic. In 2020, Lt. Gov. Boyd K. Rutherford, a Republican, said it was time for Lamone to step down, citing issues with ballot delivery and election returns.

The rebuke came shortly after returns from as many as 75,000 voters on the State Board of Elections website vanished for more than 12 hours.

The vanishing returns were one of several problems publicized during the 2020 election cycle when Maryland, a state that had never mailed ballots to more than 10% of voters, shifted to voting almost entirely by mail because of the pandemic.

Several well-publicized hiccups were reported. Ballots for the June primary were delivered weeks later than expected to voters in Baltimore City and Montgomery County, and special election ballots were sent with inaccurate postage instructions. Some households received multiple ballots and long lines at the state’s limited in-person polling places held up returns for hours after the primary.

In the years since, however, the State Board of Elections has adapted under Lamone’s oversight, holding several elections in a hybrid format that have recorded far fewer issues and concerns. Voting by mail has become widespread, and the board continues to implement measures to make such ballots easier to cast and tally.

During Wednesday’s board meeting, Lamone thanked her staff and board members for safeguarding voters rights and protecting election integrity. Her voice broke as she thanked her late husband, Rudy Lamone, who died earlier this year from COVID-19.

Election board members praised Lamone for her leadership over a lengthy tenure.

Severn Miller, a Republican member who met Lamone during his work on Ehrlich’s reelection campaign, said he has since gotten to know her better.