A group questioning the validity of state voting systems and election procedures across the country is asking a federal court to rule Maryland’s election board is out of compliance with state and federal elections laws.

The lawsuit, filed by Maryland Election Integrity LLC and Missouri-based United Sovereign Americans, is the first of many suits United Sovereign Americans is planning nationwide, according to a spokesperson.

The 34-page complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Maryland listed various claims, including that the elections board failed to keep accurate voter rolls, used voting machines with error rates beyond the legal threshold and denied the plaintiff’s requests for election reports through Maryland’s public information laws.

In their filing, the plaintiffs asked the court to keep the state board of elections from certifying elections until their claims have been satisfied, among a long list of other requests.

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“The Defendant has lost control of the voting system,” the groups said in court documents.

The Maryland State Board of Elections deferred questions about the case to the Office of the Attorney General and a spokesperson declined to comment.

The filing comes as the country is in the midst of its first presidential election since the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, when hundreds swarmed the U.S. Capitol attempting to stop the certification process. Though they failed, powerful allies of former President Donald Trump filed dozens of lawsuits in courts across the country to try to overturn the 2020 election results in his favor.

“This lawsuit appears to be yet another attempt to sow distrust in our free and fair elections,” said Chioma Chukwu, deputy executive director for American Oversight, a government transparency watchdog. “Baseless claims about voting machines and election fraud don’t just cause headaches for election workers, who have been under unprecedented pressure. They also have been used to call into question the results of free and fair elections, and to undermine our democracy.”

Joanne Antoine, executive director of Common Cause Maryland, a nonprofit that advocates for government transparency, democracy and free and fair elections, said Maryland’s elections are considered a national model.

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“We have some of the most secure elections in the country,” she said. “We are the gold standard.”

Instances of voting errors are “rare,” she said, and typically result from voter confusion.

Several post-election reviews have found no evidence of systematic voter fraud. A November audit faulted the Maryland State Board of Elections for a yearlong delay in reporting a small number of people who voted more than once or attempted to vote more than once during the 2020 election — something auditors attributed to staff turnover. The auditors also urged the election board to improve its processes for identifying deceased or duplicate voters.

Maryland Election Integrity LLC is represented by Ed Hartman III. The lawsuit describes his clients’ organization, which was established in January 2024, as “Maryland voters and interested citizens with standing.”

A Sovereign Americans spokesperson said Kate Sullivan was leading the Maryland group’s lawsuit.

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State records show a Charles S. Strauch of South Carolina filed to form the LLC. His son, Charlie Strauch, said he was “instructed by the lawyers” not to speak to a reporter.

During a 20-minute interview, Hartman struggled to explain his clients’ concerns and the remedy they seek and directed a reporter to read the court document. Hartman also failed to cite specific problems with Maryland’s elections. The lawyer said that United Sovereign Americans is helping groups, like his clients, across the country file similar suits.

Hartman has sued the state board of elections before. The Annapolis attorney represented former delegate and unsuccessful Republican candidate for governor Dan Cox when Cox filed a suit against elections officials because he wanted to stop them from confidentially counting mail-in ballots that arrived ahead of Election Day. Cox appealed his case to the U. S. Supreme Court and was denied.

United Sovereign Americans, described on their website as “an organization of citizen volunteers working to ensure valid Constitutional elections that are fair, accurate and trustworthy,” say they have been “irreparably harmed” by Maryland’s voting systems and their claims “indicate imminent and inevitable litigation,” according to the request.

In a video linked on the group’s website, co-founder and CEO Marly Hornik said her journey into “election integrity” began in August 2021 after starting the New York Citizens Audit. The nonprofit sought to scrutinize New York’s general election results against the voter rolls during the pandemic, she said.

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The organization sent volunteers claiming to be election officials door to door to tell people they had committed voter fraud, according to Spectrum News, prompting the New York Attorney General to send them a cease and desist notice in September 2023 because they were intimidating and deceiving voters.

Hornik has been to Maryland at least twice in recent months to speak with Towson-based Patriot Club of America.

During her presentation in November she explained her drive to teach citizens around the country about elections procedures because just working in New York would leave other states “vulnerable” in the 2024 presidential election. The group’s website says they will “help you and train you to create valid claims under the law, and hold election officials directly responsible for misconduct.”

Hornik told the Maryland crowd that her New York group found “anomalies” and “millions and millions of crimes” in the voter rolls.

Messages to Sullivan and the Patriot Club of America’s president were not immediately returned.

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Brenda Wintrode covers state government, agencies and politics. Before joining The Baltimore Banner, Wintrode wrote an award winning series of long form investigations for Wisconsin Watch.

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