ANNAPOLIS – Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, telling a House committee that 1994’s election was “unequivocally fair,” nonetheless called for steps to make the election process more consistent.
In a 41-page report, Curran suggested that the State Administrative Board of Election Laws, the agency that oversees election procedures, do the following:
*Conduct a statewide survey of local election boards’ practices.
*Consider establishing a statewide computer system for voter registration.
*Establish a more uniform system for the handling of absentee ballots.
*Provide leadership to local boards on efforts to educate voter and train election judges.
Curran’s report asserts, as Circuit Judge Raymond Thieme ruled last month, that Republican gubernatorial candidate Ellen R. Sauerbrey failed to prove her 5,993-vote loss to Gov. Parris N. Glendening was caused by election fraud.
“There simply is no evidence that the election was stolen,” Curran told the House Commerce and Governmental Matters Committee. “It didn’t happen and this [report] proves it didn’t happen.”
Sauerbrey’s suit claimed 47,859 votes were cast by people who were ineligible to vote in three regions: Baltimore, and Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.
Curran – who is counsel to both the state election board and the Baltimore City Board of Election Supervisors – said Sauerbrey’s claims were based on flawed information.
“The collection of raw data from the local election boards was put in the hands of volunteers whose mission was to look for irregularities,” he said.
Curran also said Sauerbrey did not prove Baltimore voting machines had been subject to tampering, another claim.
“None of the evidence presented by the petitioners at trial or even advanced during discovery provides any basis to question the results in Baltimore City on the basis of voting machine security.
Paul Rappaport, Saurbrey’s running mate for lieutenant governor, attended the meeting. Rappaport said that although he did not yet study Curran’s report, it seemed to be nothing more than a defense of the election boards’ actions.
“The reason we couldn’t get a lot of evidence into court was upon the objection of the Office of the Attorney General’s office, who we thought represented the people of the State of Maryland,” Rappaport said. “Now we’re seeing he doesn’t represent the people of the state of Maryland, but the election boards.
“Certainly there is a conflict of interest here, as [Curran’s] office distributed the report.”
But while Curran said Sauerbrey’s suit did not prove election fraud existed, he acknowledged it had “put Maryland’s 1994 election system under a microscope that magnified some glitches in the process.”
Those included inconsistency in the counting of absentee ballots and education of election judges, he said.
But Maryland should approach solutions with caution, Curran said. “First and foremost, legislators and other state policymakers should resist the temptation to ‘fix the Maryland election system with any radical changes,” Curran said. “The system is not `broken.'” -30-