October 11, 2011

Rep. Edwards, Montgomery Co. officials oppose congressional maps

Breaking her silence on Maryland's proposed redistricting plan, Rep. Donna Edwards said Tuesday that she will not support the current proposal because it dilutes minority voting power in Montgomery County.

In a lengthy statement, the Prince George's County Democrat argues that her district was created in 1992 to provide minority communities in suburban Washington a chance to chose a minority representative. The new maps, she said, would reduce the district's share of black voters at a time when the African American population has grown -- and would likely lead to no minority representation in Montgomery County.

"I understand and share the political interests that are at stake, both nationally and in our state," Edwards said in the statement. "Nonetheless, I cannot support this plan in its current form given that minority representation interests appear to have been sacrificed for these political interests."

Edwards suggested that Gov. Martin O'Malley must make substantial changes to the map before he presents it to the General Assembly next week for review. O'Malley has previously said he does not anticipate making major adjustments to the maps.

Edwards' comments came on the same day that several Montgomery County officials also staked out their opposition to the plan. Montgomery County Council members, state lawmakers and union officials argued during a press conference in Rockville Tuesday that political gain for Democrats should be secondary to protecting minority voting rights.

"We believe this is a fight worth having," said Montgomery County Council President Valerie Ervin.

"We're concerned about diluting our strength as a community," said Del. Susan Lee, a Montgomery County Democrat, who argued that Asian voters are split into multiple districts under the proposed map.

Elbridge James, political director for the NAACP in Maryland, said he and members of state's Legislative Black Caucus intend to meet with O'Malley on Wednesday to discuss their concerns. If major changes are not made, James said, the group would consider supporting a lawsuit under the federal Voting Rights Act.

-John Fritze

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Categories: Elections

September 23, 2011

Sneed concedes in Baltimore City Council race

The Sun's Luke Broadwater reports:

Shannon Sneed, the television producer who finished just 43 votes short of unseating Councilman Warren Branch in Baltimore City Council District 13, posted a concession message on her campaign Facebook page Thursday and pledged to continue her activist work in East Baltimore.

"We have come to the end of a long journey. I am thankful for the opportunity I had to get to know many of the great residents of District 13. I would also like to thank my husband, family, friends, and neighbors who dedicated so much time in this campaign. Though I was not selected to be the next council member, I will still be working tirelessly in our community. I would like to congratulate our councilman on his race and I know if he succeeds then our community succeeds."

In an interview earlier this week, Branch, the brother of Del. Talmadge Branch (D-Baltimore), claimed victory in a race that was too close to call for more than a week. He praised Sneed's campaign as "wonderful."

"She put on a positive campaign. There was no innuendo and slander," Branch said.

Sneed, who has worked for WJZ-13, has not responded to calls and emails seeking comment.

About 4,500 votes were cast in the district's five-person primary race.

The Baltimore City Board of Elections expects to certify the election results this afternoon, officials there said.

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Categories: City Hall, Elections

September 13, 2011

Baltimore polls open for primary

UPDATED: 9:22 a.m.

Luke Broadwater reports:

Voters took to the polls this morning, casting their ballots for Baltimore mayor in a crowded race that could change the direction of the city.

At Fort Worthington Elementary School in East Baltimore, 44 people had voted within the first hour, election judges said.

East Baltimore resident Lisa McCray said she had nothing against Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, but preferred challenger Catherine Pugh, a state senator.

"I like her outlook on things," McCray said of Pugh. "She's going to be able to change things."

McCray said the most important issues for her were the schools and crime.

Angela Lyles, 46, of East Baltimore, said she voted for the mayor, who assumed the position once her predecessor Mayor Sheila Dixon was forced to step down after a corruption trial.

"I want to give her a full term," Lyles said of Rawlings-Blake. "She needs to get a fair chance."

Robert and Margaret Jackson -- an East Baltimore couple married for 56 years -- said they came out to the polls early to vote for the candidates, including Rawlings-Blake, endorsed by the AFL-CIO union.

Robert Jackson, 77, said he believed Rawlings-Blake could help improve schools, while his wife said she earned respect for the mayor when Rawlings-Blake attended an event for adult illiteracy.

"That made me see her in a positive light," Margaret Jackson said.

City Council President Jack Young stopped by the polling station to greet election judges, he said.

Young said he had been driving around to bus stops encouraging people to vote.

"I know they're predicting light turnout but I hope that's not the case," he said.

Young, who faces multiple challengers to his seat, said he did not take the race lightly.

"People need to get out and exercise their right to vote," he said.

Check out the Baltimore City elections guide

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Categories: City Hall, Elections

July 18, 2011

All 12 redistricting hearings scheduled

The Governor's Redistricting Advisory Committee today announced it has scheduled all 12 of its public hearings on reshaping congressional and state legislative districts.

The first two hearings -- set last week -- will be in Western Maryland, one of the places that grew the most, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. (Entire schedule after the jump.)

On Aug. 12, the redistricting roadshow comes to Baltimore, with a hearing planned for 7 p.m. at the Morgan State University student center. The city suffered a significant population loss over the past decade and is likely to cede at least a few state lawmakers to growing areas, such as Frederick or Charles counties.

Fittingly, the very next hearing is Aug. 24 at the College of Southern Maryland in La Plata.

Following the public hearings, the five-member redistricting committee will complete a congressional redistricting map to submit to Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley for review. The Democrat-led General Assembly plans to meet for a special session Oct. 17 to vote on the map. The state legislative map vote will take place in the regular 2012 session, which begins in January. 

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Categories: Elections

July 14, 2011

Western Maryland first up in redistricting schedule

Residents in Washington and Frederick counties will be the first to weigh in on congressional and legislative redistricting with hearings later this month.

Gov. Martin O'Malley's redistricting committee released a schedule yesterday detailing the first three meetings:

11 a.m. Saturday, July 23: Hancock High School, Hancock, Washington County
2 p.m. Saturday, July 23: Hood College, Frederick
7 p.m. Monday, July 25: Prince George's Community College, Largo, Prince George's County

In all, 12 hearings are planned. The redistricting committee is charged with developing a congressional map to present to the Democratic governor before a special legislative session planned for Oct. 17. The state legislative map will be vetted in the regular session that begins in January.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 10:06 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Elections

July 11, 2011

Frederick delegate to retire, weigh comptroller bid

Del. Galen Clagett announced over the weekend that he will retire from the legislature at the end of his four-year term -- a move prompted in part by his desire to weigh a run for state comptroller.

The Frederick County Democrat will have served 12 years as a delegate and eight years as a county commissioner. In both posts, he focused on budget issues. Clagett has run a property management and commercial sales company in Frederick for 25 years, experience that he says makes him a good candidate to be the state's tax collector.

Clagett joins a broad field of Democrats who say they might run for comptroller if Peter Franchot, who was uncontested in last year's Democratic primary, decides to seek the governor's office. Dels. Kumar Barve and Brian Feldman of Montgomery County and Sen. Jim Rosapepe of Prince George's County also are said to be pondering bids.

There's another reason Clagett, 69, says he will be ready to move on from the General Assembly come January 2015: "Even a dog needs a new fire hydrant once in a while."

The plain-spoken lawmaker is popular with his colleagues on the House Appropriations Committee but says he is ready for a new challenge.

(2010 photo by Amy Davis, The Baltimore Sun.)

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Categories: Elections

July 5, 2011

Md. redistricting team meets tomorrow

Gov. Martin O'Malley yesterday announced he has appointed a five-member team to supervise Congressional and state redistricting prompted by the 2010 Census.

The Governor's Redistricting Advisory Committee meets tomorrow in Annapolis to set a series of public hearings. The Democratic governor's appointments secretary, Jeanne Hitchcock will lead the committee, which is charged with recommending a redistricting plan to the governor, who then must seek approval from the state legislature.

The General Assembly is expected to call a special session in mid-October to approve the governor's Congressional map, in time for the 2012 presidential election; state legislative districts will take shape early next year. The state's 188 lawmakers won four-year seats in November 2010.

Other redistricting members are: Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, House Speaker Michael Busch, mechanical contractor and Stadium Authority member Richard Stewart and Republican former Del. James King, an Annapolis restaurant owner. (Extended bios after the jump.)

The Sun's John Fritze wrote this morning that national political groups are waiting to see Maryland's redistricting results before deciding whether to jump into any races here. Closely watched will be U.S. Rep. Andy Harris' Eastern Shore district, which also includes portions of Baltimore, Harford and Anne Arundel counties. The freshman Republican won wrested the seat from Democrat Frank Kratovil.

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Categories: Elections

June 22, 2011

Greens, Libertarians prevail in Circuit Court

An Anne Arundel County Circuit judge yesterday ruled in favor of Maryland's Greens and Libertarians in their quest to get back on election ballots -- determining that failure to fulfill the controversial middle name requirement is in itself not a reason to toss a petition signature.

The question now is whether the State Board of Elections will appeal the ruling. It has about a month to decide. A spokesman for the Office of the Attorney General, which represents the elections board, said officials are reviewing their options.

An appeal could eventually land the contentious middle name issue back before the Court of Appeals -- a step the state may or may not want to take with a far more politically heated petition waiting in the wings.

The Greens and Libertarians sued the State Board of Elections for invalidating signatures of registered voters. Each had needed to collect 10,000 valid signatures to remain as official parties in the state, and each turned in about 16,000, though about 3,000 signers could not be identified as voters.

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Categories: Elections

June 16, 2011

Ehrlich aides indicted in Election Day robocalls case


By Annie Linskey and Julie Bykowicz

Two longtime political operatives who worked last year on Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s gubernatorial return campaign were indicted today for ordering what the state prosecutor called deceptive robocalls intended to suppress votes on the night of the election.

Julius Henson and Paul Schurick each face three counts of conspiracy to violate Maryland election laws, one count of attempting to influence a voter's decision and one count of failing to provide an authority line (on campaign material). Schurick also is charged with one count of obstruction of justice.

Read the indictments here.

Edward Smith, Jr., Henson's attorney, said his client will plead not guilty. Peter Zeidman, an attorney for Schurick, said the charges are "based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the facts."

"When the truth comes out," Zeidman said, it will be clear that Schurick "did not violate any laws."

An arraignment in Baltimore Circuit Court is scheduled for July 18.

The former governor was not accused of wrongdoing. He released this statement: "I believe in the rule of law. I believe in my friend and colleague, Paul Schurick. I hope a fair resolution is reached as quickly as possible for both Paul and Mr. Henson."

The indictment, handed up by a Baltimore City grand jury, came after an eight-month investigation by State Prosecutor Emmet Davitt into tens of thousands of robocalls that went out late on Election Day. A caller instructed voters in Democratic areas to stay home and “relax” because Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley had already won. In fact, the polls were still open. (Full recording after the jump.) 

Henson, who'd worked mostly with Baltimore and Prince George's County Democrats before joining Ehrlich's team, acknowledged orchestrating the calls. He was paid $111,000 by the Ehrlich campaign for “community outreach.”

He told The Sun the calls were “counter-intuitive” and were intended to encourage supporters to vote. Schurick was Ehrlich's communications director when he was governor and was his top campaign aide last year.

The indictment describes a document titled "The Schurick Doctrine" and says that it was "designed to promote confusion, emotionalism, and frustration among African-American Democrats."

The indictment quotes from the document: "The first and foremost desired outcome [of the Schurick Doctrine strategy] is voter suppression."

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Categories: Elections

June 9, 2011

McDonough wants more time for petition drives

Del. Patrick McDonough, a key Republican behind a popular effort to stop in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, said Maryland should give petition drives more time and fewer deadlines.

The Baltimore County conservative stalwart says petitioners should have 90 days, instead of 60, to collect the 55,000-plus signatures needed to get a referendum on the ballot. He also wants to do away with the rule requiring one-third of the signatures in the first 30 days.

His timing might seem odd: This week, the Board of Elections validated more than enough signatures to keep the in-state tuition referendum alive. In fact, in his release today,. McDonough notes that the group has more than 40,000 valid signatures -- well over the 18,000 that were due May 31 and closing in on the 55,736 needed by the end of this month.

But McDonough said that while "passion" and Internet prowess (the group has collected thousands of valid signatures though its have given this particular referendum drive a boost, the time is right to revisit the referendum process.

"We're succeeding in spite of the system," he said. "This is the opportune time" to try to change the rules for petitions "because it's going to be on people's minds."

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Categories: Elections

April 15, 2011

Rejected as official, third parties sue

Maryland's Greens and Libertarians are no longer official political parties, according to the State Board of Elections. They failed to win enough votes in the fall election and, the board says, weren't able to collect enough signatures to petition to remain on the ballot.

But the parties aren't over. The Libertarians filed a lawsuit Monday in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court claiming they did, in fact, submit enough signatures. The Greens said Thursday that they have joined that suit, which names Elections Administrator Linda Lamone as a defendant.

Here's the lawsuit, provided by the Green Party.

The parties were hopeful after a recent Maryland Court of Appeals decision allowed illegible signatures on petitions. But, as recent Green Party gubernatorial candidate Maria Allwine acknowledged at the time, "the bigger problem is the insistence that the name be exactly as it looks on the person's voter registration."

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Categories: Elections

March 22, 2011

Court OKs messy signatures on petitions

In a ruling sure to be welcomed by Marylanders with sloppy pensmanship, the Court of Appeals has decided that petition signatures need not be legible to be valid.

"We hold that a signature on a petition for referendum is but one component of the voter's identity that is to be considered in the validation process," the majority opinion of state's highest court says. "... An illegible signature, on its own, does not preclude validation." 

The 5-to-2 ruling, reported this morning, has an immediate impact on two political parties. The Green Party and Libertarian Party each failed to win the minimum 1 percent of votes in the most recent gubernatorial election required of official parties. Each has petitioned the state to remain viable.

By law, those petitions must include the signatures of at least 10,000 registered voters. The Greens submitted 14,000 signatures, and the Libertarians put forward 12,000, according to the State Board of Elections.

Elections officials were in the process of validating signatures when today's ruling was handed down. Officials now must start over, said Jared DeMarinis, director of candidacy and campaign finance for the Maryland State Board of Elections.

The ruling does not appear to undo any referendum efforts previously rejected by state or local elections boards. 

Elections officials were "digesting" today's ruling and believed they would have to alter their petitions policies to reflect that ineligible signatures are OK if they accompany valid printed contact information supplied by a registered voter.

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Categories: Elections

March 5, 2011

Peter O'Malley elected state Democratic chairman

UPDATED, with details of position, below.

The Democratic State Central Committee voted unanimously Saturday to elect the younger brother of Gov. Martin O’Malley to chair the Maryland Democratic Party.

The governor had nominated Peter O'Malley, who managed his 1999 mayoral campaign and was one of the top aides on his gubernatorial campaign last year. Peter O’Malley replaces Susan Turnbull, who led the party for the past two years.

“I am so thankful for this tremendous and humbling opportunity to once again work with Democrats in all corners of Maryland,” Peter O’Malley said in a statement after the vote. “In Maryland we’ve set the standard on how to win, and together we will lead the charge to protect the progress we have made.”

Republican Party Chairman Alex X. Mooney dismissed the selection as nepotism. In a statement, Mooney said the governor has “created more jobs for his family than he has for Maryland over the entirety of his time in office.”

“It’s clear Governor O’Malley is more focused on putting members of his family to work rather than the over 200,000 unemployed Marylanders struggling to find a job,” Mooney said.

UPDATE: According to the Maryland Democratic Party, the chairmanship has always been an unpaid, volunteer position. The party said Peter O'Malley will continue to work, on a paid basis, as manager of Friends of Martin O'Malley.

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Categories: Elections

January 14, 2011

Presidential hopefuls, or not, at Republican retreat

Sun colleague Jean Marbella reports:

Another meal -- this time, lunch -- and another feeding for the media beast at the House Republican retreat being held at the Marriott Waterfront hotel in Inner Harbor East. With reporters not actually allowed inside any of the actual sessions, we await members and guests either holding press conferences, or snag them individually in the lobby.

This post-prandial feeding came at the hands of three GOP governors said to be mulling 2012 presidential bids -- Haley Barbour of Mississippi, Rick Perry of Texas and Bob McDonnell of Virginia. Introduced by Majority Leader Eric Cantor, each took the podium in a ballroom here to denounce what they called federal overstepping on states' responsibilities, particularly the new health care mandates and environmental regulations.

"This administration wants to come in and control your state," Perry said.

"This election," Barbour said of the November midterms that tipped the House majority from Democrat to Republican, "undoubtedly was a repudiation of President Obama's policies."

"It's unsustainable," McDonnell said of what he called the unfunded mandates related to the health care reform act.

None, however, admitted to harboring a direct challenge to Obama's presidency in 2012.

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Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 4:10 PM | | Comments (0)

December 17, 2010

Investigators raid home of Ehrlich robocaller

Investigators for the state prosecutor on Friday raided the home and office of Julius Henson, the political operative who ordered the controversial Election Day robocalls for former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

Emmet C. Davitt, Maryland’s new state prosecutor, declined to comment on the raid. Neither Henson nor his lawyer could be reached for comment Friday.

WBAL-TV, which broke the news of the morning raid, aired footage showing investigators carrying boxes away from Henson's home from an early morning raid.

Henson, a Democratic operative who was working this year for the Republican Ehrlich, ordered more than 112,000 robocalls before the polls closed on Election Day last month.

The calls focused on Democratic precincts in Baltimore and Prince George’s County. The recorded message featured a female voice suggesting that Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley had already won the election and encouraging supporters to stay home.

The woman told voters to “relax” because “Governor O'Malley and President Obama have been successful.… Everything is fine. The only thing left is to watch on TV tonight.”

Nobody answered the door Friday at Henson’s home on Decker Street. There was also nobody answering Friday afternoon at his office on North Charles Street.

Henson has acknowledged orchestrating the calls. He told The Baltimore Sun last month that the message was meant to encourage turnout.

“We believe the call was made for voters in Baltimore City who were not going to go to the polls, to go to the polls and vote,” Henson said in early November. “It never said, ‘Don't vote.’ ”

Henson said Ehrlich “probably” did not know about the calls. Ehrlich’s campaign paid Henson $111,000 for “community outreach.”

Ehrlich told the Annapolis Capital last week that the calls were “done outside of my purview.” When news of the calls broke on Election Night, an Ehrlich spokesman called them “absolutely irresponsible.”

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November 2, 2010

Phony robocalls tell Democrats to "relax"

Several residents have called the newsroom to report that they have received robocalls implying that Gov. Martin O'Malley had won his re-election bid and that people should "relax."

"I'm calling to let everyone know that Gov. O'Malley and President Obama have been successful," the caller says, according to a recording provided by O'Malley's campaign staff. "We're ok. Relax. Everything's fine. The only thing left is to watch on TV tonight."

Residents reported receiving the calls around 7 p.m., well before the polls are slated to close at 8.

John Lundquist, a teacher who lives in Highlandtown, got the call on his answering machine at 6:44 p.m.

“It’s just amazing,” he said. “Here we are in the eleventh hour of the election, and these tactics are still going out. Whoever has paid for this call to go out is depending on voter apathy.”

Democrats swiftly denounced the calls and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake released a statement blaming former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich's campaign.

"Sadly, this kind of gutter politics that we have come to expect from Bob Ehrlich and the Republican Party," Rawlings-Blake said in a statement.

But an Ehrlich spokesman denied that the calls had originated from his team.

"It's new to us, we reject it, we condemn it," said campaign spokesman Andy Barth. "We don't want to mislead any voters or suppress the total. We want a clear, honest process."

Robert Hillman, 71, a semi-retired attorney from North Baltimore, said he received a call this evening. "What was most strange was there was no identification," he said.

And Heather Dewar, an editor with the Urbanite Magazine, reported getting two robo calls-- the female voice others received and one from Rep. Elijah Cummings, urging voters to ignore the phony call and remember that the polls are open until 8.

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Categories: Elections

October 30, 2010

State ordered to extend overseas ballot deadline

A federal judge has ordered the State of Maryland to extend the deadline for accepting overseas ballots by 10 days, the Associated Press reports.

Judge Roger Titus issued an order Friday extending the deadline from Nov. 12 to Nov. 22.

The judge ruled on a lawsuit against the state Board of Elections by a member of the Maryland National Guard who said overseas voters have not been given enough time to obtain and return ballots for next week's election.

The guardsman, identified in court papers as Officer John Doe, and the Washington-based Military Voter Protection Project alleged that officials mailed overseas ballots listing candidates for federal office only by the deadline set in a new federal law designed to protect military voters.
They say this prevents them from voting for state office candidates, including governor.

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 5:00 AM | | Comments (1)

October 10, 2010

Baltimore Co.: Bartenfelder praises but doesn't endorse Holt

It wasn't an official endorsement.

But Baltimore County Councilman Joseph Bartenfelder, who was defeated in the Democratic primary for county executive last month, sure likes the Republican nominee for the county's top job, calling him "a person of honesty and integrity" at a gathering to thank his supporters Sunday night.

Bartenfelder praised Republican candidate Kenneth C. Holt, who attended the event with his wife Mary at the fire hall in Kingsville, but stressed his kind words for Holt were not an endorsement.

Bartenfelder, who lost the nomination to fellow Democrat Kevin Kamenetz, invited Holt.

"Let's get one thing clear," said Bartenfelder, in opening remarks to about 100 of his campaign volunteers who dined on burgers, hot dogs and barbecue chicken. "This is not an endorsement party."

Some in the crowd booed.

Later, Bartenfelder introduced Holt to raucous cheers.

"Ken is a person of honesty and integrity. Like someone said earlier, the people of Baltimore County are going to choose who's best...," Bartendfelder said, before addressing Holt directly."I'm proud to be here with you today and I'm proud to have you and Mary as friends."

Before the event kicked off, Bartenfelder told a reporter there would be no endorsement. But when asked if Holt's invitation could be construed as one, Bartenfelder said, "I'm not commenting on that. This is a supporters thank you party."

Of his relationship with Holt, Bartenfelder said, "He asked for advice. I give him advice, that's all.

Holt, who ran unopposed for the GOP nomination, said he would be glad to get Bartenfelder's endorsement.

"I think that Joe and I share a lot of values, a lot of conservative values," said Holt. "I think these folks who have been loyal to him see something in me that they can have faith in -- handling their tax money responsibly."

Bartenfelder, meanwhile, kept the door open on his own political aspirations, telling supporters to hold onto their campaign T-shirts.

"Don't throw them away," he said. "Who knows what four years is going to bring. You never say never."

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Categories: Elections

September 28, 2010

Conservation voters group mails absentee ballots

The Maryland League of Conservation Voters is mailing 130,000 absentee ballot applications to registered voters -- an effort that could prove beneficial to Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley and other candidates endorsed by the environmental group. The applications are expected to begin showing up in mailboxes today.

This marks the largest voter outreach effort by the Maryland group. In 2006, the conservation league sent out applications and postcards to 70,000 voters. (That was the first election after absentee ballot rules were loosened. There's no longer a need to provide a reason for voting by mail.)

The voter outreach is funded through the league's nonprofit educational arm, so the applications come with no partisan political message, said Cindy Schwartz, executive director of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters.

Neither red nor blue voters are targeted -- only green ones.

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Categories: Early voting, Elections

September 25, 2010

Guardsman, D.C. group sue Md. elections board

Baltimore Sun colleague Andrea Siegel reports:

A member of the Maryland National Guard has filed a federal lawsuit against the State Board of Elections, claiming military personnel and other overseas Marylanders could be denied the opportunity to vote for state offices in the general election unless the court intervenes.

In the lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, the anonymous guardsman identified as Officer John Doe says the state did not give overseas voters enough time to obtain and return ballots for statewide offices in the November elections, which include the contest for governor.

Joining as co-plaintiff is the Military Voter Protection Project. Eric Eversole, the Navy judge advocate general who heads the Washington-based organization, says the ballots for federal offices that the Maryland board sent a few days after this month’s primary elections were not valid.

Results of the Sept. 14 primary have not yet been certified; for the seat now held by Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the ballots includes provisions to mark either of two Republican challengers who are locked in a tight primary contest.

Eversole worked in the voting section of the civil rights division of the Justice Department during the Bush administration, and advised the McCain-Palin campaign on military voting matters. He said the lawsuit was not motivated by partisanship.

Ross Goldstein, deputy director of the elections board, declined to comment directly on the lawsuit. But he said the Justice Department and military authorities signed off on the office’s plan to send out ballots for congressional offices quickly after the primaries.

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September 2, 2010

Early primary voting is test run for general election

With the start Friday of early voting, Baltimore Sun colleague Julie Bykowicz reports, for the first time in state history all Maryland voters will be able to cast their ballots ahead of the Sept. 14 primary elections.

Candidates across the state are viewing this round of early voting as something of a dry run for the weeklong voting period that will precede the general election in November. Only registered Democrats and Republicans can participate in the primaries.

The new system has cast office-seekers in the role of de facto educators, explaining the process to voters. Many also include early voting information in their campaign literature and have begun mentioning it in automated phone calls to voters. Many, including the governor and his chief competitor, hope to lead by example by casting their own votes early.

“It's kind of crept up on us,” Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley said at an early voting rally this week in Annapolis with legislative leaders and the legislative black caucus. “It is still new to people as I encounter them on the street. Let's hope for a big turnout.”

The incumbent faces only token opposition in the Democratic gubernatorial primary; his two challengers have little name recognition or money. But aides have said early voting in the primary will provide a valuable preview of how the process will unfold in November.

In the Republican gubernatorial primary, former Gov. Robert L.Ehrlich Jr. must face down Montgomery County businessman Brian Murphy, who is far less widely known but drew national attention when former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin announced her support for him this summer.

“It’s hard to figure out what early voting means in the Republican primary, given that this is the first time,” Murphy said this week. “We’re aware of it, but it’s a nonfactor.”

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Categories: Early voting, Elections

September 1, 2010

Baltimore Co. Councilman Moxley endorses Kamenetz

From Baltimore Sun reporter Arthur Hirsch:

Baltimore County Councilman S.G. Samuel Moxley is the last of the Democrats on the council to choose sides in the primary race for county executive between councilmen Kevin Kamenetz and Joseph Bartenfelder. His endorsement of Kamenetz could provide a lift in the southwest end of the county, where Bartenfelder is expected to run strong.

"It was a very difficult decision for me," said Moxley, who joined the council in 1994 along with Kamenetz, Bartenfelder and T. Bryan McIntire. "I think they're both good people."

He joins councilmen John Olszewski Sr. and Vincent Gardina of the east side in backing Kamenetz, who represents the area including Reisterstown, Pikesville, Ruxton and parts of Owings Mills. Councilman Kenneth N. Oliver of the west side, next to Kamenetz's district, is supporting Bartenfelder, a farmer from Fullerton. McIntire, the lone Republican on the council, has said he'll be supporting his party's candidate, Kenneth C. Holt, who is running unopposed in the primary on Sept. 14.

In describing why he chose to back Kamenetz, Moxley echoed many people who have announced their support for the 52-year-old lawyer from Owings Mills: he's smart, analyzes situations well and understands the details of policy.

Moxley, who chose not to run for a fifth term, mentioned specifically Kamenetz's role over the years as the county's negotiator with cable companies Comcast and Verizon, and his work on legislation, particularly land use law that has had impact not just in Kamenetz's 2nd District, but countywide.

"Kevin is an appropriate and good leader," said Moxley, of Catonsville. "A very intense person when it comes to issues. He does delve into the small details as well as the big picture."

Moxley said he'd be getting out to spread the word about Kamenetz, even as he acknowledged that less than two weeks before the election he still runs into many people who are unaware that Moxley himself won't be on the ballot.

"I'll do whatever I can to assist in the campaign," he said.

Posted by Maryann James at 11:26 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010, Elections

August 31, 2010

More Dems, GOPers eligible to vote in primary

Voter registration numbers released this week by the Maryland Board of Elections show that both major parties have grown their ranks between the primary election two years ago and the one in two weeks.

Voter registration closed last week and will not reopen until after the Sept. 14 primary election. Only registered Democrats and Republicans may vote in the primary -- leaving some half a million Maryland voters at home until the Nov. 2 general election.

In raw numbers, there are 2,860,126 registered Democrats and Republicans this year, compared with 2,622,951 registered for the 2008 presidential primary election, which was in February. This year, Republicans make up about 32 percent of major party voters, down slightly from 34 percent two years ago.

Continue reading "More Dems, GOPers eligible to vote in primary" »

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 11:40 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Elections

August 25, 2010

GOP reports shot fired at Salisbury office

A gunshot fired early this morning shattered the glass door of a Maryland Republican Party field office on the Eastern Shore.

The Salisbury police discovered the vandalism after midnight and are investigating. No motive has been established, but Lt. Rob Kemp of the Salisbury police said the shot was likely "random."

"It just looks like somebody took a random shot. It wasn't multiple rounds or anything," he said. The single round was located in the office lobby but with no witnesses, Kemp said, it's not clear how much more investigating police can do.

State Party Chairwoman Audrey Scott called the incident "very disturbing."

“No motive has been established but whatever the reason may be it is very troubling that someone would do this to our volunteer field office,” Scott said in a statement.

The Salisbury office -- part of the GOP's national "Victory Campaign" -- is in a former Hollywood Video store.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 4:00 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Elections

August 17, 2010

Howard: Ulman outraises Kittleman for exec

Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, a Democrat running for re-election, has added to a sizable cash advantage over challenger Trent Kittleman this year.

Ulman reported having $713,424 on hand in campaign finance reports filed Tuesday, compared to $23,297 for Republican Trent Kittleman, who remained undaunted.

“I wish it were more,” Kittleman said, adding that “running against an entrenched incumbent in such a Democratic state puts roadblocks in the way.” But she predicted a close race in November.

Continue reading "Howard: Ulman outraises Kittleman for exec" »

Posted by Andy Rosen at 3:12 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Campaign finance, Candidate Watch 2010, Elections, In The Counties

August 10, 2010

Md. candidates plead for cash as deadline looms

It's not just Cinderella watching the clock today. The stroke of midnight marks the end of a critical fundraising period for Maryland politicians.

Not since January has the public had a look at campaign finances. The reporting period that ends today will show how much a candidate has been able to raise since announcing a run for office, becoming official and diving into election season. This camapign finance report, which will become public in a week, is one way to measure just how serious a candidate is.

The major candidates for governor, Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley and Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., seem to understand the importance of today's deadline and have flooded supporters with last-minute requests for cash.

Continue reading "Md. candidates plead for cash as deadline looms" »

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 4:45 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Campaign finance, Candidate Watch 2010, Elections

August 9, 2010

On the waterfront, a generational clash

Baltimore Sun colleague Annie Linskey -- a former City Hall reporter who now covers state government -- opens her roundup of Baltimore's legislative races with one of the few competitive contests in the city. She describes it is as a clash of generations:

Dodging raindrops Thursday night, the incumbent senator sped from door to door in a South Baltimore neighborhood.

"I'm George Della," he said at one door. "Keep me in mind on election day." Then he was off to the next.

A few miles south in Westport his young upstart of an opponent, Bill Ferguson, was leading a group of supporters in the same activity.

"We've had the same senator for 27 years," he said. "I don't think he's pushing hard enough."

In a city where most incumbents face little or no opposition at the polls, the contest in Baltimore's 46th district is shaping up to be the most dynamic legislative race. Della and Ferguson each embody a different force tugging at the gentrifying district, an area that encompasses the entire waterfront from Curtis Bay to Dundalk.

Della, 67, is the old-school pol who started his public career as a Baltimore City councilman, winning a Senate seat the year Ferguson was born. When he knocks on a door, Della often knows the current occupants — and sometimes the families that lived there before.

Ferguson, 27, is a Teach for America import from Rockville with bundles of energy who is using social media to spread his message of school reform. He moved to Baltimore five years ago, though his campaign stresses that he's a "fifth-generation Marylander."

Read more about Della, Ferguson and Baltimore's other legislative hopefuls at

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 5:00 AM | | Comments (1)

July 21, 2010

Crabs + politicians + sweltering heat = Tawes

It's a Maryland thing.

Politicians -- including Gov. Martin O'Malley and former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr -- are among the hundreds of hot crab-pickers circling through tents and tables at the annual Tawes crab and clam festival in Crisfield on the Eastern Shore.

O'Malley called it a "must-attend event." Ehrlich, meanwhile, called it a "have-to."

"It's almost kind of a political rite of passage," O'Malley said. He arrived at 2 p.m. and, with a green-clad entourage, is still shaking hands and squinting in the sun.

Tawes is like a final exam for political aides, who do their best to tactfully and quietly steer competitive candidates away from each other. Ehrlich arrived essentially at the same time as O'Malley, but waited in the parking lot until "this stuff goes away," as Ehrlich spokesman Andy Barth put it.

When he did make his entrance, Ehrlich called the Tawes tradition "about as Maryland as you get... It's part of our political heritage." Ehrlich also continues to make the rounds this afternoon. The event ends at 4 p.m.

Organizers say they were expecting 6,000 people at this year's festival. Some other numbers: 41,000 clams, 300 bushels of crabs and a high of 94 degrees.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 3:10 PM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Elections

July 20, 2010

Candidates must adhere to new social media rules

A committee of state lawmakers today approved regulations that will change how much information candidates must include on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. The new rules take effect in two weeks.

Candidates must begin including an authority line -- a declaration of approval that lists their campaign treasurer -- on their official campaign pages on Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites that have exploded in popularity this election season.

The rules do not mean that each 140-character "tweet" has to contain that detailed infomation. Rather, it has to be on the "landing page" that corrals all of the tweets for a specific candidate.

Both major gubernatorial contenders, Gov. Martin O'Malley and former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., are already including authority lines. Check out the bio section and of their Twitter pages to see what all candidates must now begin doing.

"This is very new," said Jared DeMarinis, director of the division of candidacy and campaign finance for the State Board of Elections, which crafted the regulations. "We're taking the rules as they are today and applying them to Internet."

Social networking companies have lauded the state for being at the forefront of the issue. Company representatives for Google, AOL, Yahoo and Facebook were in Annapolis this morning to testify in favor of the regulations.

Continue reading "Candidates must adhere to new social media rules" »

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 1:15 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010, Elections, Political ads

July 12, 2010

GOP consolidating dominance in Harford

Less than two decades ago, Democrats held nearly every elected office in Harford County. How the times have changed: Republicans have long since come to dominate the county; this year, Baltimore Sun colleague Mary Gail Hare writes, Democrats aren't even challenging for many key offices this year.

There is no Democrat is running for county executive or County Council president. The party is challenging for only three of the six council seats up for election. A Republican state senator who was appointed to his seat in 2007, meanwhile, has no challenger in the primary or general election.

"This is the culmination of a trend reflecting the growing weakness of Democrats in Harford County," Avery Ward, dean of behavioral social science at Harford Community College, tells Hare. "Republicans started gaining strength in the 1980s, especially when a lot of young voters joined the party. There also was a strong local leadership building the party. We have seen a striking shift in power over the last 25 years."

Read Republicans solidifying dominance in Harford at

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 12:03 PM | | Comments (0)

July 2, 2010

Brian Murphy's mystery pick

Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. teased the announcement of his running mate this week for several days. Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley, meanwhile, tried to build anticipation for a surprise announcement of his own (it turned out to be an award from the National Education Association).

Now GOP gubenatorial hopeful Brian Murphy is trying to get in on the fun. The Montgomery County businessman said Friday he would announce his running mate next week.

The twist: while he wouldn't name the individual, he did offer some hints.

In a release, Murphy said his pick for lieutenant governor "has served the United States with distinction, including duty in the United States Marine Corps, the FBI, the office of Federal Inspector General, and as a Congressional Investigator." The individual currently serves as a "a college forensics professor."

Murphy plans to announce his pick during a public event at 11 a.m. Tuesday at campaign headquarters in Crofton.

Tuesday is the filing deadline for governor and other offices, which raises the question: Why wouldn't Murphy make his announcement now, when he could take advantage of the news vacuum going into the holiday weekend, rather than wait until filing day, when it seems likely to be overwhelmed by the deluge of political information to become available?

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 1:32 PM | | Comments (2)

June 22, 2010

Audit finds problems with elections board

The state Office of Legislative Audits has again found "deficiencies" in the state elections board's oversight of local boards and in its financial management, the agency said in a report released Tuesday morning.

The auditing arm of the General Assembly reports that the State Board of Elections:

* Has failed to develop an adequate system to ensure the accuracy of voter registration information generated by local board for the statewide voter registration database;

* Has not obtained an audit of system controls over the statewide voter registration database, even though such an audit is required by the board's contract with the system consultant;

* Has not conducted formal, comprehensive reviews periodically of each local board's compliance with election laws and regulations;

* Failed to report an unfunded liability of $2 million, related to unpaid vendor invoices, to the state comptroller at the end of Fiscal Year 2009; and

* Did not ensure adequate controls for processing cash receipts, accounts receivables, purchasing and disbursement transactions, contract monitoring, information systems security and control, and equipment.

The report includes a point-by-point response to the audit submitted by state elections administrator Linda H. Lamone.

"During this audit period, the agency experienced significant turnover in the two financial positions and other senior management positions, and some of the resulting audit findings are the likely consequence of this turnover," Lamone writes.

She takes issue with some of the findings, and describes plans to address others.

Continue reading "Audit finds problems with elections board" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 12:22 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Elections, General Assembly 2010
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About the bloggers
Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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