Maryland Elections Commissioner Linda Lamone is retiring after 26 years

March 31, 2023

LocalToday Maryland News

Linda Lamone, Maryland’s longtime election chief, who some officials have described as the state’s “for life” election chief, will step down this year after more than two decades in office.

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

“I loved this job. It hasn’t always been easy, but through Republican and Democratic governments, through COVID, cyber threats, redistribution, changing election dates and changing voting behavior, we’ve delivered for Maryland voters,” said Lamone, speaking during a virtual meeting from her home office appeared The blackboard.

The state board of elections, whose five members are chosen by the governor, selects a replacement. Your choice must be confirmed by the state senate. Based on the proposed state budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, the salary range for the position is $120,000 to $166,364.

According to Adam Abadir, a spokesman for the State Audit Office, Lamone earned $163,000 in 2022.

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

Democratic leaders have come out in defense of Lamone, calling the move “a blatant abuse of political power.”

Lamone survived the attempted coup and obtained an injunction to keep her in office after a judge ruled her removal before the 2004 presidential election would cause chaos. A mediator eventually brokered a compromise that kept Lamone in position.

Since then, Lamone has been protected by the so-called “Linda Lamone for Life Law,” making future attempts to remove her even more difficult. The law allows an administrator to remain in office until the Senate confirms a successor.

That protection has come in handy as Lamone weathered further criticism while the state elections commission shifted gears amid a pandemic. In 2020, Lt. gov. Boyd K. Rutherford, a Republican, said it was time for Lamone to step down, citing problems with voting and election results.

The rebuke came shortly after the return of up to 75,000 voters on the State Board of Elections’ website had disappeared for more than 12 hours.

The vanishing returns were one of several issues that emerged during the 2020 election cycle, when Maryland, a state that had never mailed ballots to more than 10% of voters, voted almost exclusively by mail because of the pandemic.

Several high profile hiccups have been reported. Ballots for the June primary were delivered to voters in Baltimore City and Montgomery County weeks later than expected, and ballots for special elections were mailed with inaccurate shipping instructions. Some households received multiple ballots and long lines at the state’s limited in-person polling stations delayed responses 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 with far fewer problems and concerns. Postal voting is widespread and the Board continues to implement measures to facilitate the casting and counting of such ballots.

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

Electoral Board members commended Lamone for her leadership over a long tenure.

Severn Miller, a Republican member who met Lamone while working on Ehrlich’s reelection campaign, said he’s gotten to know her better since then.

“Basically, the greatest testament to your capacity and your excellence is your people,” Miller said. “I think you’re leaving [State Board of Elections] in great shape with really great people doing all the things the board needs to do.”

Michael Summers, a Democratic member, called Lamone’s leadership “unwavering and steadfast.”

“You steered this ship called the Maryland Electoral Code pretty well and exceeded a lot of people’s expectations,” he said.

State Senator Cheryl Kagan, a Montgomery County Democrat and one of Lamone’s most vocal critics, wished Lamone well but said her resignation was for the best.

“Unfortunately, she hasn’t been as cooperative or open to other people’s ideas as would be helpful,” Kagan said. “While I appreciate their long service, our election will benefit from having fresh leadership with fresh ideas and a commitment to working with our 24 counties and legislators.”

Kagan sponsored legislation (Senate Bill 863) to amend the requirements for removing the election administrator, including removing the requirement that an administrator remain in office until a successor is appointed and confirmed. The Senate passed the bill and the House of Representatives passed its version (House Bill 899) and sent it to committees in opposite houses for consideration.

Hannah Gaskill, reporter for the Baltimore Sun, contributed to this article.