Ervin Follows Through on Vow to Sue State to Get Name on Ballot

A lawyer for Valerie L. Ervin has made good on a threat to the Maryland State Board of Elections and filed a lawsuit asking a circuit judge to order a reprint of the June 26 primary ballots to include the candidate’s name and that of her running mate for governor and lieutenant governor.

 

The 10-page lawsuit, brought by Rockville lawyer Mariana C. Cordier, was filed electronically Tuesday with the Anne Arundel Circuit Court clerk’s office, an Ervin campaign spokeswoman confirmed Wednesday.

 

Cordier, a past president of the Maryland Hispanic Bar Association, brought the suit on behalf of Ervin, a sort of accidental candidate for governor, and her hand-picked running mate, Marisol A. Johnson, a new candidate for lieutenant governor.

  Attorney Mariana C. Cordier

At issue is the fact that the Democratic primary ballots were printed listing Baltimore County Executive Kevin B. Kamenetz as candidate for governor, along with Ervin as his lieutenant governor candidate. Kamenetz, however, died suddenly May 10, and Ervin decided to step up and run for governor, as is allowed by state law, picking Johnson as her running mate.

 

Ervin, 61, is a former Montgomery County Council and school board member; her running mate, Johnson, 38, owns an insurance business and is a former Baltimore County school board member who abandoned a campaign for a District 2 County Council seat earlier this year.

 

On May 17, when Ervin and Johnson filed their certificates of candidacy with the State Elections Board in Annapolis, Linda H. Lamone, Maryland’s elections administrator, told them she had decided the statewide ballots would not be reprinted, given the time constraints — a decision left to her discretion under the law. Rather, she said, as per the law, the local election boards would instruct voters on the change in candidacy from Kamenetz-Ervin to Ervin-Johnson.

 

Assistant attorneys general for the state elections board submitted an affidavit signed by Lamone saying as much to the Maryland Court of Appeals on May 18, in a case related to Ervin’s very situation, but dealing specifically with whether the name of a disgraced state senator should be struck from the ballot, after he pleaded guilty to two federal felonies.

 

That day, the state’s highest court refused to take up the matter, rejecting an argument that Kamenetz’s sudden death could cause all the state’s ballots to be reprinted.

 

At the time, Ervin released a statement registering her concern over Lamone’s decision not to reprint the ballots – and since has steadily increased the volume of the drumbeat against the state’s stance.

 

Finally, in a letter dated May 28, the Memorial Day holiday, Cordier wrote to Lamone, telling her that Ervin was demanding that the ballot be revised and reprinted, and was objecting to the wording of a proposed notice to voters of the candidate change, finding it to be “an arbitrary and capricious disregard for the option to reprint the ballot.”

 

Cordier then listed a series of demands for the state elections board and suggested that officials use stickers to amend the ballots to reflect an Ervin-Johnson candidacy, rather than Kamenetz-Ervin.

“Failure to reprint the ballot will result in prejudice to Ms. Ervin and Ms. Johnson and will result in the disenfranchisement and suppression of Maryland voters,” Cordier wrote.

 

“So there is no misunderstanding,” she concluded, “should you choose to refuse to reprint the ballot or in the alternative create a sticker to affix on the ballot in the Kamenetz-Ervin portion of the ballot, immediate legal action will be taken on May 29, 2018.”

 

Andrea W. Trento, the assistant attorney general representing the state elections board, replied to Cordier in a 3-page letter May 29, explaining the state’s position in detail, and included a copy of the board’s full plan for notifying voters of the change in candidates, along with a copy of a proposed notice to voters.

 

“To be clear, based on the lack of availability of sufficient quantities of the specialized ballot paper stock and the operating schedule of the mill from which such paper is sourced, it would be impossible to reprint the ballots in advance of the primary election,” Trento wrote in reply to Cordier.

 

“Nor will it be able to ‘correct’ the printed ballots with stickers reflecting the Ervin-Johnson candidacy, since the uniform voting system currently in use across the state cannot accommodate stickers,” he wrote.

 

“Litigation will not change either of these facts,” Trento wrote Tuesday.

 

Cordier responded by filing suit later that day.

 

Whatever the decision in the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court, the case is likely to be taken up the appellate ladder. Time, however, is critical.

 

The state’s 78 early voting centers before the June 26 primary open at 10 a.m. Thursday, June 14, and are open daily until 8 p.m. through Thursday, June 21.

 

Further complicating the matter is that the State Board of Elections already has mailed all the military and overseas absentee ballots — with the Kamenetz-Ervin pairing on them — in accordance with federal law requiring that they go out by May 12, 45 days before the election. 

 

State election officials repeatedly have described the tedious and complicated process of proofing, testing and printing 747 configurations of the primary ballot — each with different candidate listings for the varying combinations of congressional, legislative and local districts, depending on polling place locations statewide.

 

They estimate overall cost of reprinting the state’s 3.5 million primary ballots to be roughly $2 million, in addition to an estimated $1 million already spent on the process of printing.

 bzorzi@marylandmatters.org

William F. Zorzi
Bill Zorzi was a Baltimore Sun reporter and editor for nearly 20 years, focusing on government and politics. An Annapolis bureau veteran, he wrote a weekly column, “The Political Game” for the paper.Zorzi and another former Sun reporter, David Simon, are longtime collaborators on acclaimed television projects, including the HBO series, “The Wire,” and the HBO miniseries “Show Me a Hero,” which dealt with an explosive housing desegregation case in Yonkers, NY.

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