Anger Mounts as Court Schedules Hearing on Ervin's Ballot Status

An Anne Arundel County Circuit judge Thursday denied a request by Valerie L. Ervin for an emergency order to stop the Maryland State Board of Elections from distributing primary election ballots that do not include her name and her running mate’s name as Democratic candidates for governor and lieutenant governor.

 

Judge Laura S. Kiessling met in chambers on the ballot matter with Ervin’s attorney, Rockville lawyer Mariana C. Cordier, State Elections Administrator Linda H. Lamone, and Andrea W. Trento, an assistant attorney general for the elections board, but refused to issue a temporary restraining order.

 

Instead, Kiessling scheduled a later hearing on arguments, both pro and con, on whether a court should order the state board to print new ballots for the June 26 primary election with the names of both Ervin and her running mate, Marisol A. Johnson, on them.

 

That hearing, on Cordier’s motion for a preliminary restraining order, is now scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Monday before Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge William C. Mulford II.

 

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 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.

 

 State Elections Administrator Linda H. Lamone 

 

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.

 

The chambers conference with Kiessling occurred a half-hour before a regularly scheduled meeting of the State Board of Elections began, three blocks from the courthouse in Annapolis, where Cordier later put forward her request again to have the ballots reprinted.

 

At the “new business” item on the board’s agenda, Cordier addressed the panel, saying that she wanted to put on the record why she and Ervin were asking to have the ballots reprinted.

 

“We are asking for reconsideration because we believe that the voters of Maryland will not be fully advised and informed, even with the basic efforts of giving them notifications and notices, posting in the polls,” Cordier said.

 

She added that state election law provides for the board to have the ballots reprinted, or in lieu of that, have corrective stickers affixed to them.

 

“We’re not asking for anything special or different; we’re asking for compliance with the law, and we believe it’s important enough to protect the integrity of this election and ultimately the voters’ rights,” she said.

 

Shortly thereafter, without comment about Cordier’s statements, the election board adjourned and went into executive session to discuss, among other issues, the Ervin case scheduled for the Circuit Court hearing Monday.

 

On May 17, when Ervin and Johnson filed their certificates of candidacy with the elections board, Lamone told them she had decided the statewide ballots would not be reprinted, given the time constraints faced by officials — a decision left to her discretion under the law. Instead, she said, as per the law, the local election boards would instruct voters on the change in candidacy from Kamenetz-Ervin to Ervin-Johnson.

 

Lamone later signed an affidavit essentially explaining her stance at the request of assistant attorneys general for the state elections board who were handling a case before the Maryland Court of Appeals that was different than, but related to, Ervin’s situation.

 

At the time, Ervin released a statement about her concern over Lamone’s decision not to reprint the ballots and eventually began threatening to sue the state over the ballots if they were not reprinted with her and Johnson’s name. The push to have the ballots reprinted has gained traction in the last 10 days with other Democratic gubernatorial candidates and finally on Thursday with the Maryland Democratic Party.

 

“After consulting with our attorneys and with the Democratic National Committee’s voter protection department, and as new details emerged regarding the State Board of Elections’ plans and procedures, the Democratic Party believes that Maryland law requires the Maryland Board of Elections to do everything in its power to list all eligible gubernatorial candidates and to conduct a smooth election process for all voters,” Maryland Democratic Chairwoman Kathleen Matthews said in a statement Thursday. “Voters deserve nothing less.”

 

The Ervin-Johnson campaign hired Cordier on Saturday, and two days later, on the Memorial Day holiday, the lawyer wrote to Lamone threatening to sue if the ballots were not reprinted.

 

After a detailed written response by Trento, the assistant attorney general, that explained plans by Lamone and the elections board for notifying voters of Kamenetz’s death and that a vote for Kamenetz-Ervin was a vote for Ervin-Johnson, Cordier filed suit Tuesday.

 

In an unrelated matter Thursday, Lamone’s monthly report to the elections board showed that the now-closed “Friends of Valerie Ervin” campaign committee had been fined $650 for “failure to keep account books and records, report contributions … and report expenditures on a campaign finance report.”

 

The Ervin committee, which had been established June 16, 2006, when she was a candidate for County Council, amended earlier filings March 22, 2018, and paid the civil fine and closed the account on April 18, 2018.

 

Earlier Thursday, outside of the Baltimore City Board of Elections offices, Ervin and Johnson stood with other aggrieved and would-be aggrieved parties of the elections process, as founders of Voters Organized for the Integrity of City Elections (VOICE) announced that they were asking Republican Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. to bring in election observers at polling places across the state.

 

Hassan A. Giordano, cofounder of VOICE and a Democratic candidate for clerk of the Baltimore City Circuit Court, said the group also was going to urge the State Board of Elections to begin a voter education campaign to inform Marylanders of problems with the primary ballot.

 

“We are headed for disaster yet again if something isn’t done immediately … if the ballots aren’t changed and the voters aren’t thoroughly informed,” Giordano said in statement.

 

He cited a number of mistakes in Baltimore City’s 2016 election returns as evidence of the problems with the voting process.

 

Ervin was asked about why she thought the state’s plans for notifying voters were inadequate.

 

“Linda Lamone made decisions without our input about mitigating the circumstances around Marisol’s and my name not being on the ballot,” Ervin told reporters. “There’s so much wrong with what she’s trying to do that that’s why we’re bringing suit against the state Board of Elections.”

 

Among the invited onlookers was H. Mark Stichel, who represented three 41st District voters in an unsuccessful lawsuit to have the name of former state lawmaker Nathaniel T. Oaks removed from the Democratic primary ballot after he pleaded guilty to two federal felonies and made himself an ineligible candidate by withdrawing his Maryland voter registration.

 

Also present were Elinor G. “Ellie” Mitchell, one of the three 41st District voters represented by Stichel, and William T. Newton, one of four Republicans running in the state’s June 26 primary to be the GOP’s nominee for the 7th District congressional seat in November. [email protected]

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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