Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidate Krishanti Vignarajah filed a legal action suit Friday seeking a decision on whether she's eligible to take part in the race.
Vignarajah, who has received questions surrounding her voter registration and residency status, filed her suit with the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court regarding her eligibility to run for governor.
To be eligible to run for governor, a person must be at least 30 years old and have been a Maryland resident and registered voter in this state for the five years immediately preceding the election, according to the State Board of Elections website.
The 38-year-old former State Department official, who worked with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and later served as first lady Michelle Obama's policy director, voted in Washington, D.C., multiple times between 2010 and 2014. While critics assert her Maryland residency and voter status were terminated during this time, Vignarajah claims this does not invalidate her status in Maryland.
"As someone with as deep Maryland roots as any of the other candidates, it is disappointing that the governor's reelection campaign is already resorting to baseless attacks to try to keep me off the ballot," Vignarajah said in a news release.
Stella Rouse, director of the University of Maryland's Center for American Politics and Citizenship, a nonpartisan nonprofit that addresses issues in U.S. government, said claims like these are not unusual.
"Especially in a state like Maryland, where you have people who move out of the state and go to the district and move back, I think that is something that has been brought up as an issue before of people that have run, in terms of their residency," she said.
Vignarajah's voting status was temporarily changed to "inactive" during the five-year time period required to run for governor when she moved to D.C. While being a registered voter is a requirement for a gubernatorial run, the Maryland Constitution doesn't differentiate between "active" and "inactive" voters, according to the plea filed.
"Maryland's highest court has twice conclusively … [ruled] that the Maryland Constitution does not permit any distinction between 'active' and 'inactive' voters and that both must be treated as registered voters in Maryland," the plea reads.
A person like Vignarajah can only lose her original residence and gain a new one if she takes up a new "place of dwelling" with the intent to abandon her old home and make that her new one, the plea read.
"Based on that ruling, I would believe that the law is in her favor, and any judgment that would be rendered would be in her favor if they're following precedent," Rouse said. "Ultimately, I think it's not going to affect her candidacy."