Ervin Threatens to Sue State to Get on Primary Ballot

Gubernatorial hopeful Valerie L. Ervin, fresh off her participation in the first televised forum of the Democratic primary Monday, served notice that she is prepared to sue the state to get her name onto the June 26 ballot. And she challenged, in direct terms, the legitimacy of the only other female candidate in the race, about whom residency questions have long simmered. In an interview with Maryland Matters, Ervin called the Maryland State Board of Elections’ refusal to place her name on the ballot, in place of the late Kevin B. Kamenetz, her former running mate, a “civil rights” issue and a case of “voter disenfranchisement.”  “If your running mate died and you want to run on a ticket, they have to put your name on the ballot,” she said. Kamenetz, the 60-year-old Baltimore County executive, died suddenly on May 10. A week later, facing a tight legal deadline, Ervin decided to run in his place.  She selected Marisol A. Johnson, a former member of the Baltimore County Board of Education and a Kamenetz ally, to be her running mate.  State elections officials are refusing to place the Ervin-Johnson ticket on the ballot, citing cost and logistical obstacles. Absentee and military ballots have already been mailed out, and there are questions about whether the agency could obtain the special paper needed to print ballots in time for a primary that is now just five weeks away.  Valerie L. Ervin  Instead, they said that information will be made available to voters, at each precinct, notifying them that a candidate died and that a new ticket was formed by the campaign.  That’s not cutting it for Ervin, a former two-term Montgomery County councilwoman. “The Board of Elections has to step up its game, because the statute on whether or not my running mate, Marisol Johnson, and I can be on the ballot is clear and unambiguous,” she said. “They made a different decision because, I’m told, it was about the money. They have this special paper now.. and so now, I’m told, the state board thinks it’s going to be too expensive. “If you read the statute, you can change a ballot 10 days before the election. It’s written into the statute. So, this is becoming a civil rights issue, because it’s a question of voting rights, voter disenfranchisement, not being able to go into the booth and find the woman that you would like to vote for and her running mate on the ballot.” Ervin said she has been in contact with lawyers at civil rights organizations who have indicated that her treatment raises red flags. “This is beyond me, Valerie Ervin, running for governor. It’s ‘Is the State of Maryland going to do the right thing here or not?’” Ervin also questioned the validity of Krishanti Vignarajah, the former aide to Michelle Obama, about whom residency questions have long swirled.   “I’m just going to be really frank here. I’ve heard from a lot of the candidates before I got on the ticket running for governor, that none of them believe she was eligible. But no one wanted to be ‘the one’ who would take on the only woman in the race. It’s just a fact that there are questions.” Vignarajah had an apartment in Washington, D.C., while she worked for the former first lady, but she maintained it was just convenience. She has voted in District of Columbia elections, but she maintains she has always considered Maryland to be her true home. Asked if the party would be taking a risk in making Vignarajah the nominee, Ervin replied: “Let me tell you something.  She won’t be [the nominee]. But if she were, [Gov. Lawrence J.] Hogan (R) would just shut it down. Like, they would just clear the decks, and say, ‘this person is not eligible.’” Vignarajah’s campaign has argued that the window to challenge her ballot status has closed and that the issue would not be a factor in the general election if she became the nominee. The debate taped on Monday morning at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum in Baltimore aired Monday evening on Maryland Public Television.  [email protected]

Bruce DePuyt
Bruce DePuyt spent nearly three decades on local television, including 14 years as executive producer and host of News Talk on NewsChannel 8 in the Washington, D.C., area. He has served as reporter, anchor and producer/host of 21 This Week in Montgomery County and as reporter/anchor at NBC affiliate WVIR-TV in Charlottesville, VA. He's a regular contributor to WTOP (103.5 FM) and frequently moderates community and political events.


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