Why do the world's oldest people live in Maryland?

Even though modern medicine has greatly increased human longevity, it's still unusual to make it well past the century mark. It was news when Guinness World Records formally recognized 114-year-old Misao Okawa of Japan as "the world's oldest woman" in February. So it was a bit of a shock to find out that Maryland's voter rolls contain the names of 48 people who are even older than Okawa.

"Apparently, the 48 oldest living people in the world reside in Maryland," said Diana Waterman, chairman of the Maryland Republican Party. Party officials discovered this demographic tidbit while doing an analysis of the State Board of Elections' voter lists for its newly gerrymandered legislative districts.

It's highly unlikely that living in Maryland confers hitherto unknown benefits that extend life to world-record levels. The more probable explanation is that the elections board is doing a terrible job purging deceased voters' names from the rolls, including the 20,000 dead people who are still eligible to vote in Maryland.

But that's not all the Maryland GOP found. Using voter management software, it compared voter lists with national change-of-address data from the U.S. Postal Service and discovered that 268,004 voters no longer live at the same address at which they registered. That number includes 11,170 former Marylanders who now reside in Virginia, 11,113 who have since moved to Pennsylvania, 4,352 who now live in Delaware, and 3,696 whose current address is in New York.

Maryland voter registration director Mary Cramer-Wagner told marylandreporter.com that under the 1965 National Voting Rights Act, a deceased voter cannot be removed from the rolls unless a registrar receives an official notice of death. She said the state relies on notification from family members and a monthly report by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. But the Social Security Administration's Death Master File is updated weekly. Had state officials consulted it, surely they would have discovered that at least some of their centenarian voters were no longer able to cast a ballot.

The beleaguered Maryland GOP, which is struggling to remain relevant in an overwhelmingly blue state, still managed to access readily available public records from the Postal Service and the U.S. Department of Commerce and compare them to Maryland's voter rolls. The only question is why the Maryland State Board of Elections and the 24 county elections boards didn't do it a long time ago.