Search for new state elections director narrowed to three finalists

May 26, 2023

Maryland Matters

The search for a new state elections administrator is now down to three finalists.

The five-member Maryland State Board of Elections met Friday to review a tranche of applications for the position and determine which candidates are invited for interviews next week.

“Obviously, this is a personnel matter,” said William Voelp, chair of the elections board. “So, we’re trying to be very careful not to use names and things like that just in fairness to the candidates.”

The state board is engaged in a fast-moving effort to hire a successor to outgoing state Elections Administrator Linda Lamone.

“We had numerous people apply,” Voelp said Friday afternoon following a meeting of the board that was not open to the public. “The board today met and whittled that down to interview three candidates and we will interview next Wednesday afternoon.”

Voelp and newly sworn-in board member Yaakov “Jake” Weissmann said the board had not authorized the release of additional information including the total number of applicants or other demographic information.

Voelp said the pool of applicants included both in-state and out-of-state candidates. The pool of finalists also includes at least one out-of-state candidate.

Deputy State Elections Administrator Nikki Charlson and Jared DeMarinis, the director of candidacy and campaign finance are widely considered as interested in the position.

Neither would comment when asked if they had applied. It is not known if either is a finalist.

The effort to find a replacement is moving fast.

Lamone, the long-time head of the agency, announced her retirement in March. She is expected to remain in the position until September. Voelp said last month that he wants a new administrator in place before Lamone departs.

The applications were received over a two-week period that ended May 19.

The panel is currently scheduled to announce its selection at a June 5 meeting.

Some advocates who closely follow the board called for greater transparency. Some want the applicants publicly named to allow a more thorough vetting of the candidates.

Searches such as the one undertaken by the elections board are typically seen as confidential personnel matters. Information is tightly controlled. Names are rarely released.

The search is a new experience for the board. Lamone was appointed to her position in 1997 by then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D). Over two decades, changes to the position moved responsibility for hiring an administrator to the board. But in 2005, the legislature imposed new oversight in an effort to block an effort to oust Lamone by then-Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R).

The law allowed the current administrator to continue to serve until the Senate confirmed a new administrator hired by the board. That law remained in place until this year when a bill repealing the so-called “Linda Lamone for Life Act,” sponsored by Senate Education, Energy and Environment Vice Chair Cheryl C. Kagan (D-Montgomery), was signed into law by Gov. Wes Moore (D).

Weissmann, in an interview, reiterated a promise made by Voelp that neither Lamone nor any other elections staff would be in the interviews between the board and individual finalists.

Weissmann hit the ground running at the board. On Tuesday, the executive committee of the Maryland Democratic Party forwarded his nomination to Moore. That nomination was quickly approved and Weissmann was sworn in on Thursday.

He will serve on the board in the interim but will have to be confirmed by the Senate during the 2024 General Assembly session.