Nominee to Maryland elections board questioned after predecessor resigned amid Capitol riot charges

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland lawmakers questioned a Republican nominee to the state elections board on Monday, specifically asking her whereabouts on Jan. 6, 2021, after a previous board member resigned when charged with participating in the attack at the U.S. Capitol.

In questioning Diane Butler at a state Senate hearing, the panel of lawmakers controlled by Democrats was following up on a pledge to be more careful in its confirmation process as it weighs the replacement for the former Republican elections board official, who resigned in January.

“I’d just gotten back from Florida visiting with my daughter, and I was actually cleaning my fish tank because it got a bunch of stuff in it while I was gone,” Butler said, when asked where she was on Jan. 6, 2021. “I was at home.”

Members of Maryland Senate’s Executive Nominations Committee have said they will be more diligent after failing to ask a single question of Carlos Ayala, who resigned his position on the elections board in January after being charged in federal court. He faces charges of civil disorder, a felony, and multiple misdemeanor counts for allegedly participating in the riot while Congress was certifying the 2020 presidential election results.

Sen. Clarence Lam, a Democrat, also asked Butler about a screenshot of a Facebook page he said his office received that appeared to be from her relating to pandemic masking guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The post that was purported to be from you said that you have responded with a comment of: ’What’s next? Nazi armbands?’ Is that something you recall posting in the past?” Lam asked.

When Butler responded “no, I don’t recall that,” Lam asked again.

“It could have been mine. I think that there were a lot of different thoughts about the masks, and I think people had a lot of thoughts in the beginning,” Butler said.

Butler, who served as a county elections official in the state, faced a variety of questions about her beliefs in the integrity of the state elections process.

Butler appeared before a state Senate panel that votes on nominees by the governor to positions in state government, including the Maryland State Board of Elections, which is comprised of five members.

The minority party, which in Maryland is the Republican Party, nominates two members to the state’s governor, who forwards the nomination to the state Senate for consideration.

Lam also asked Butler if she thought fraud “is a significant problem in Maryland’s elections,” and she said “no.” Butler also said she did not believe there has been illegal interference in past elections in the state.

Asked for her thoughts about mail-in ballots, Butler said she believed “it can be done extremely well,” and she thought Maryland did “a good job with it under the circumstances we had” during the pandemic.