Newly Announced Gubernatorial Candidate Voted in D.C. Multiple Times While Registered in Maryland

Krishanti Vignarajah has been registered to vote in D.C. and Maryland since 2010


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Screenshot via Krishanti Vignarajah's Twitter page

Krishanti Vignarajah, who announced Wednesday she plans to run for Maryland governor, has voted four times in Washington, D.C., while also a registered voter in Maryland, records show.

Vignarajah, 37, an attorney, first registered to vote in Maryland in 2006 at an address in Catonsville. However, she didn’t vote in the state until the 2016 general election, according to her Maryland voting history, which Bethesda Beat obtained.

While her Maryland registration remained active, she registered to vote in D.C. on Sept. 14, 2010, then voted in the city’s primary the same day, according to her D.C. voting history, also obtained by Bethesda Beat.

She listed her address at the time at an apartment building at 1701 16th St. NW in the District.

Her D.C. voting record shows that she also voted in the April 26, 2011, special election, as well as the 2012 and 2014 general elections in the city.

On Wednesday, Steve Rabin, a spokesman for Vignarajah, confirmed that the candidate had voted in D.C. while working in the White House and the State Department. At the White House, she was a policy director for Michelle Obama. She was an adviser in the State Department for John Kerry and Hillary Clinton.

However, Rabin said that during this time, she maintained her residency in Maryland.

“Kris is a lifelong resident of Maryland,” Rabin said. “She was given the opportunity of her life to serve in the Obama administration. … For a few years while she was working in the State Department and the White House, she had a second residence in D.C., which is fairly typical for White House staffers because of the hours they have to work.”

He said questions about whether she is eligible to become governor, which requires that a resident be registered in the state for five years before an election, were brought about by potential challengers who he would not name.

“We do think it’s disappointing that some Democrats in a primary are trying to bring Trump-style politics to Maryland and are trying to make the same sort of outlandish attacks that the president tried to make about President Obama’s birthplace,” Rabin said.

He said Vignarajah didn’t return to vote in Maryland during elections from 2010 to 2014 because “sometimes there are situations in the world that don’t allow a person to make an hour drive to Catonsville in the middle of the day.”

Vignarajah did not respond to multiple requests for comment on Wednesday.

In Maryland, the state constitution says a candidate for governor must have lived in the state and been a registered voter there for at least five years leading up to the election.

Tamara Robinson, a public affairs specialist with the D.C. elections board, told Bethesda Beat Wednesday that when residents register to vote in the District, they need to cancel their voter registration in any other jurisdictions.

“On our voter registration forms, a resident must check a box that says ‘I don’t claim voting residence outside of the District of Columbia,’” Robinson said. “We consider it a legal document.”

The D.C. voter registration form notes just below the box, “If you sign this statement even though you know it is untrue, you can be convicted and fined up to $10,000 and/or jailed for up to five years.”

Vignarajah’s Maryland voting history shows she did not vote in Maryland in the 2008 election—when Barack Obama was first elected president—but she was registered in the state then.

Mary Cramer Wagner, the director of Maryland’s voter registration and petitions division, did not know if votes cast in D.C. would cause Vignarajah’s registration in Maryland to be null and void.

“That’s a question for the attorney general,” Wagner said, when informed about the D.C. votes.

The Maryland attorney general’s office declined to comment.

Her brother, Thiru Vignarajah, served as deputy attorney general of Maryland from Jan. 2015 to Oct. 2016.

Andy Levy, a partner at the Baltimore law firm Brown Goldstein Levy, who has 20 years of experience working on Maryland election law issues, said it would be difficult for Vignarajah to argue that she meets the eligibility requirements for governor given the D.C. votes she cast.

“Her argument may be, ‘It says you have to be registered—I was registered,’” Levy said. “That strikes me as a difficult argument to make.”

Levy said the 2014 general election vote in D.C., in particular, is troublesome—given that it happened less than five years before the 2018 election.

“It would be very hard for me to believe that a Maryland court would interpret the requirement that a voter be registered in Maryland for the past five years to include voting somewhere else,” Levy said. “That would border on an absurd interpretation.”

The address for Vignarajah on her Maryland voter registration is on Upper Mills Circle in Catonsville. But Rabin said she moved to Gaithersburg a few months ago so she and her husband would have more room for their newborn.

Vignarajah’s Maryland voter registration briefly went inactive starting in February 2015 after Baltimore County received information from the Electronic Registration Information Center—a consortium of 20 states and D.C. that share confidential voter information—that she may have moved out of state, according to Wagner.

However, her registration was reactivated in October 2016, when she had a transaction at the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration.

Maryland law asks a voter to certify when registering that he or she is a state resident, U.S. citizen and at least 16 years old.

Former NAACP director Ben Jealous, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, state Sen. Richard Madaleno (D-Kensington), Baltimore attorney James Shea and entrepreneur Alec Ross have also announced they will pursue the Democratic nomination for governor for the opportunity to challenge Republican incumbent Gov. Larry Hogan in 2018. Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz has not formally announced his entry into the race, but is expected to run for the nomination as well. 

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