The Maryland Senate on Friday voted to accept the governor’s nominee for an open Republican seat on the state elections board.

The vote was 32-12. All who said no to former Howard County elections board member Diane Butler were Democrats.

Sens. Cheryl Kagan of Montgomery County and Clarence Lam of Howard County said they remained concerned about Butler’s fitness for the role and voted no.

During her roughly 10-minute floor speech, Kagan said she initially wanted to support Butler’s nomination but more research, including phone calls to many Republicans in Howard County, made her change her mind. She said her comments were not about partisanship, nor were they personal.

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She and Lam said conversations they’d had with people who know Butler made them question her “temperament and judgment.”

“I have found this nominee to be severely lacking on both,” Kagan said.

Republican Sen. Justin Ready rose in support of Butler’s nomination. He said Butler is a good person and that he’s known her for some time.

“I think the body should be careful about the idea that, if someone expresses strong opinions about things dealing with election processes, that that is in some way the same as January 6,” Ready said.

During her hearing before the Executive Nominations Committee, Butler said she had raised concerns about her county’s mail-in ballot procedures during the 2020 presidential election.

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The Carroll County lawmaker said it’s appropriate for someone on a local elections board to question mail-in ballot procedures.

“One of the great things about our country is that we have parties,” Sen. Jim Rosapepe said, as he stood in support of Ready’s comments. The Democrat representing Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties said the parties have differences but share a “common commitment to our country.”

State board of elections nominees have faced additional review after senators learned in January that a sitting Republican board member they approved last year was accused by federal authorities of participating in the Jan. 6, 2021, breach of the U.S. Capitol.

Carlos Ayala resigned from the post after the FBI charged him with civil disorder, a felony, and multiple misdemeanor offenses.

In the months since, senators have asked Democratic and Republican candidates where they were the day a pro-Donald Trump mob attempted to stop the certification of the 2020 presidential election.

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The Senate committee reviewing Butler’s nomination initially delayed a vote to give senators more time to look into her background but voted her through to the full Senate on Monday.

State board of elections candidates are recommended to the governor by each party’s state central committee. The five-member board is filled by three members of the governor’s party and two from the minority party.

A spokesperson for Gov. Wes Moore said the administration did not have a comment on the Senate’s decision.

The state Republican Party also recommended Jim Shalleck, a Montgomery County lawyer who ran for state attorney general in 2022, according to Adam Wood, the party’s executive director. Shalleck is a former president of the Montgomery County elections board.

Moore is holding off on acting on Shalleck’s nomination because he is running to be a delegate to the Republican National Convention, spokesman Carter Elliott IV said.

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The nominations process rejected two of the three GOP picks in 2023. Moore’s administration declined to nominate William T. Newton, who frequently posted on social media about false claims that results of the 2020 presidential election and other elections were not accurate. Then, the Senate committee voted against Christine McCloud after she said she didn’t feel mail-in votes should be allowed.

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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