WASHINGTON – Donna Edwards, who is trailing seven-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Albert Wynn by fewer than 3,000 votes, announced she’ll pursue legal action against the Prince George’s County Board of Elections for “serious irregularities” in Tuesday’s primary election results.
“We are not at this point alleging any fraud,” said Jonathan Shurberg, Edwards’ lawyer. He explained that in two or more precincts voting machines still containing memory cards — indicating they had not be counted — were returned to the Board of Elections. The mistake “appeared to have increased Congressman Wynn’s vote totals disproportionately,” he said.
Voters in the 4th Congressional District, which includes parts of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, encountered a myriad of problems when they went to cast their vote, including missing voting cards and unreliable computers, forcing some to vote using provisional ballots and prohibiting others from voting at all. Many votes have yet to be counted.
Wynn said Edwards wants to have things both ways, first saying she wants to count all the votes and then saying she wants to throw them out.
“That’s not fair. You can’t represent people whom you want to disenfranchise. The voters are now going to have an opportunity to see what Miss Edwards really thinks about them,” Wynn said in a statement read by his spokesman Alon Kupferman. “Elected officials must respect the right of the voters to exercise their franchise.”
Including the first round of absentee ballots from Montgomery County, Edwards, who has 36,142 votes, trails Wynn, who has 39,085 votes, according to both counties Board of Elections’ Web sites.
Two or three Prince George’s precincts reported the results very late Wednesday, Shurberg said. Neither he nor Edwards could confirm published reports that two of the precincts are in Chillum.
“There are serious irregularities in that nobody can account for the whereabouts or security of the machines or voting cards between 8 p.m. Tuesday and . . . about 5 p.m. on Wednesday when these machines with memory cards in them were delivered to the Board of Elections,” he said.
Montgomery County, where Edwards held a strong lead over Wynn, will start counting between 10,000 and 12,000 provisional ballots on Monday. It’s possible the results won’t be announced until Thursday, Montgomery County election officials said.
“I’m not going to rest until this is resolved,” Edwards has said.
Wynn supports an independent investigation, Kupferman said.
Edwards will pursue an evidentiary hearing as soon as possible, ideally before Monday, Shurberg said.
“We will be asking a court to take possession of these machines and the memory cards in the machines until full explanation of what occurred can be provided,” he said.
Shurberg declined to comment on whether they will pursue a full recount of the vote.
“Right now our interest is in getting the votes counted,” he said. “When we get all the votes counted she’ll make a decision on what she wants to do.”
This is the first time Wynn has received less than 75 percent of the vote since he was elected into office in 1992.
The two candidates have been locked in a tight race, which some found surprising given the fact that Edwards, a lawyer and community activist, has no previous experience in public service.