The Baltimore Sun December 28, 1994, Wednesday,

Copyright 1994 The Baltimore Sun Company
The Baltimore Sun

December 28, 1994, Wednesday, FINAL EDITION


LENGTH: 1472 words

HEADLINE: 11,000 votes challenged
Republican Ellen Sauerbrey officially files suit contesting November election

BYLINE: John W. Frece and William F. Zorzi Jr., Sun Staff Writers


Buoyed by sign-waving supporters chanting "Governor, Governor, Governor," Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey asked an Anne Arundel County court yesterday to declare her the winner of last month's gubernatorial election, or at least to order that a new election be held.

Mobbed by backers outside the brick Circuit Court building in Annapolis, Mrs. Sauerbrey contended that her independently funded investigation of alleged voting irregularities in the Nov. 8 election has produced enough evidence of wrongdoing to convince a court she may have been robbed of victory.

"The number of votes we are challenging is more than enough to change the results of the election," Mrs. Sauerbrey declared.

Her long-awaited lawsuit contends that about 11,000 votes were cast improperly or fraudulently in Baltimore City and Montgomery and Prince George's counties, the three jurisdictions carried by the election's declared winner, Democrat Parris N. Glendening.

After absentee ballots were counted, state election officials certified that Mr. Glendening won the election by a 5,993-vote margin out of more than 1.4 million votes cast. "This is not about politics," Mrs. Sauerbrey told a crowd that included many waving bright yellow "Sauerbrey for Governor" signs left over from her campaign. "This is about the power of the people to seat their rightful governor."

The suit names as defendants the state election board; the Baltimore City, Montgomery and Prince George's County election boards; the Board of State Canvassers, which certified the election results; and Mr. Glendening and his running mate, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.

Lawyers for both sides said they hope to resolve the case as quickly as possible. They are to submit to an Anne Arundel circuit judge today a proposed expedited schedule that could result in a hearing as early as Jan. 6.

Bruce L. Marcus, a lawyer for Mr. Glendening, predicted the legal battle would "absolutely and categorically not" interfere with Mr. Glendening's scheduled Jan. 18 inauguration.

Mr. Marcus said most of Mrs. Sauerbrey's allegations deal with "technical" issues in the election law, rather than a pattern of "voter fraud."

State and local election officials have acknowledged there could be some technical irregularities -- such as voters who, after moving, cast ballots in their old polling places -- but have vehemently denied any fraud or wrongdoing.

Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., who is representing state election officials, the Board of State Canvassers, and the city election board, said his office is reviewing the suit and promised "a quick and fair resolution of this matter."

"The people of this state have the right to know that November's election was a fair one," he said.

Yesterday's lawsuit alleges, for the first time, that automatic voting machines in the city were tampered with, and that some duly appointed election officials were "prohibited, precluded and prevented from working in their appointed and sworn offices."

The suit also contends that some city polling places "opened early, opened late, closed early or closed late and persons who should not have voted did, and voters who are legal voters were rejected."

As expected, the lawsuit also includes other allegations that Mrs. Sauerbrey has mentioned in recent weeks, including claims that 37 votes were cast in the names of city residents who are dead.

It charges that 71 city voters and an unspecified number of Montgomery County voters gave as their addresses buildings that have long been vacant and abandoned.

The suit says 4,774 votes in the three jurisdictions were cast in the names of people incarcerated at the time of the election. Those voters either were ineligible under state law, or the votes actually were cast by others, the suit says.

It also says at least 84 voters in Baltimore voted twice: 42 of them voted once at the polls and once by absentee ballot, and another 42 voted twice at the polls or someone cast a vote in their name.

Twenty city residents voted by absentee ballot even though they were not registered to vote at all, the suit contends.

"As a result of these acts, omissions and other acts, malconduct, fraud, corruption or otherwise, illegal votes were received, proper votes were rejected or dishonored and affected and an error in the accounting of the votes has occurred," the lawsuit contends.

In all these cases -- from the alleged voter machine tampering to the allegations of dead people voting -- no names, addresses or details of any kind were provided, either as part of the lawsuit or verbally from Mrs. Sauerbrey or her lawyers. That sort of information is expected to be revealed as the case progresses through the courts.

Neither Mrs. Sauerbrey nor her lawyers would answer specific questions about the lawsuit.

The suit claims that more than 40,000 residents either moved from or did not reside in their voting district at the time they voted, based on information provided by the U.S. Postal Service's National Change of Address system. The suit is unclear, however, as to whether Mrs. Sauerbrey is asking that these votes be disqualified. It also alleges that absentee ballots were not handled in accordance with state law -- a charge that may bring into play 13 other lawsuits pending in circuit courts around the state.

A lawsuit filed last month in Montgomery Circuit Court by lawyers for Mrs. Sauerbrey asks that about 2,000 absentee ballots be set aside because they were cast without a required affidavit or were opened early by election officials.

Mr. Glendening's lawyers countered by suing 12 local election boards, asking that the absentee ballots in those counties be handled the same way those in Montgomery County are treated.

The case marks the first time since 1876 that a gubernatorial election in Maryland has been challenged. The outcome then was decided by the House of Delegates.

But Mr. Marcus, the Glendening attorney and lead spokesman for the defendants, said their goal is to have the courts rather than the Democratic-controlled legislature decide what to do with Mrs. Sauerbrey's challenge, to keep the outcome from being politically tainted.

"Obviously, we're very concerned over the fact that this issue is still hanging out there 45 days after the election," he said, complaining that Mrs. Sauerbrey "waited until the 11th hour," yesterday's legal deadline to make a challenge, before doing so.

Mr. Marcus said that after a cursory look at the suit, he could find allegations of only 104 instances of voter fraud -- the 84 voters who voted twice in the city and 20 voters who were not registered to vote. He characterized the other thousands of votes questioned in the suit as "technical."

"Are we upset by the notion that anyone would attempt to perpetrate fraud? Yes," he said. "Does this surprise us in an election where more than 1.4 million votes were cast? No."

But he suggested that if Mrs. Sauerbrey had evidence of specific allegations of fraud, she should have brought it earlier to the attention of law enforcement or other state officials.

"We believe it's a sad day in Maryland history that the electoral process has been called into question," he said, describing the allegations as "divisive" and "dispiriting to the citizens." He predicted that the case will cause mistrust in the electoral system.

"For these reasons, [Mr. Glendening] is obviously distressed at having this lawsuit pending," he said.

The lawsuit requests that the case be referred to a three-judge panel rather than to a single Circuit Court judge.

The scene outside the historic courthouse on Church Circle looked like a campaign event when Mrs. Sauerbrey arrived yesterday afternoon. Onlookers overflowed into the busy traffic circle outside the courthouse, and as Mrs. Sauerbrey was surrounded by television cameras, a supporter yelled, "Let the governor through! Let the governor through!"

Sheldon Isaacs, who described himself as a painter from Baltimore, held a home-made sign that said, "Vote Scam -- If you can't win an election, steal it."

Mr. Isaacs said he was among the volunteers who have worked for Mrs. Sauerbrey's Election Inquiry Fund and said he has seen many of the abandoned buildings in Baltimore that were listed as the home addresses of voters.

"Every street you go up you find 10 houses, sometimes 25," he said. "Fraud's everywhere."


Here are some of the charges in Ellen Sauerbrey's suit to overturn the election:

* More than 4,700 votes cast in the name of people who were in prison on Election Day.

* At least 37 votes recorded for people who are dead.

* At least 71 votes recorded for people whose addresses were abandoned buildings.

* Unspecified "tampering" with voting machines in Baltimore.