Tag Archives: Baltimore City

Franchot: Lamone Must Go

By Adam Pagnucco.

Comptroller Peter Franchot has joined Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford in calling for the resignation of State Board of Elections administrator Linda Lamone in the wake of the botched Baltimore City Council District 1 election. Franchot made the following statement on Facebook.

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Yes, we do have a problem with the Baltimore City elections. A very big problem, in fact. Namely, voter disenfranchisement through gross administrative incompetence and widespread, citywide irregularities.

Inexcusable delays in the disbursement of ballots.

Inaccurate, misleading information on those same ballots.

Firsthand accounts, of which there are far too many to reference here, of Marylanders enduring unacceptable barriers to their constitutional right to vote.

Such as ballots that were never received in the mail.

Unacceptably long lines at the limited number of polling stations that were actually open. And people being told at the polls that they had already voted when, in fact, that wasn’t the case.

Bizarre and obviously mistaken vote totals being posted to the our state’s official board of elections website that caused undue public confusion.

And this morning, more than 12 hours after the polls were supposed to have closed in Baltimore City, the residents and business owners of this city in crisis had no timely updates on the outcome of the races for mayor, council president, city comptroller and various city council seats.

All we can be sure of today is that people who had the right to vote didn’t receive a ballot. People who didn’t have the right to vote DID. And that, regardless of whatever outcomes are eventually posted by our state and city elections boards, they will be subjected to widespread skepticism if not credible legal challenges.

Our city, state and country are already facing far too many existential challenges without corroded public confidence in the integrity of our democratic process and in the legitimacy of the outcomes. Yet that’s what is happening today, yet again, in our state.

It’s time for an end to the endless excuses. It’s time for a new culture of accountability and competence. It’s time for our longtime state elections administrator, Linda Lamone, and our city’s election director, Armstead Jones, to resign from their respective positions.

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SBE Explains Mistake; Rutherford Calls for Lamone’s Resignation

By Adam Pagnucco.

The State Board of Elections (SBE) has issued the statement below on vote counting problems in the City of Baltimore’s Council District 1.

Simultaneously, Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford called on State Board of Elections administrator Linda Lamone to resign. He said the following at this morning’s meeting of the Board of Public Works.

Yesterday was primary day in Maryland. There were reports of several challenges associated with it. There is some information that’s coming out today with regard to some challenges in Baltimore City. I have not had a chance to review it but with regard to the ballots in the first councilmanic district, that is just another example of the challenges that have been occurring with the State Board of Elections. And I did say earlier in a radio interview that I really think it’s time for the administrator at the Board of Elections to step down. I think it’s time for new leadership there and to be done early, before we – with enough time to correct all of these issues before we get to November’s general election. And so I call on the Senate to work with us to find new leadership and I encourage the administrator to step down.

Getting rid of Lamone is easier said than done and the Governor has no power to do it. As I wrote eleven years ago, when former Governor Bob Ehrlich tried to oust Lamone, the General Assembly changed state law to make it virtually impossible to fire her without the consent of the Senate. The Gazette wrote at the time, “The bill is so restrictive that the elections administrator could not be removed from office even if all five members of the State Board of Elections vote to fire her, even if she were convicted of first-degree murder, sentenced to death row and stripped of her voting rights. Only when the state Senate approves a replacement could she be removed. Now that’s job security.”

Only one thing is certain: the fallout from Baltimore’s botched Council District 1 election is just beginning. What will happen next?

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Baltimore City’s Election Has a Problem

By Adam Pagnucco.

Baltimore City Council Member Zeke Cohen was riding high. A first term incumbent in District 1 (Southeast Baltimore/Canton/Fells Point), Cohen was running for reelection and was endorsed by most of the major progressive institutional players in city politics.

Cohen’s challenger, Paris Bienert, was a credible candidate but her endorsement list was no match for the incumbent.

For the cycle, Cohen outraised Bienert by $322,837 vs $170,795 through May 17, a nearly 2-1 edge. Cohen also outspent Bienert by $194,015 vs $124,069. Cohen was so confident of victory that he reported a cash balance of $206,174 on May 17.

So this looks like a big win for the incumbent, yeah?

Not exactly.

Last night, Cohen tweeted the following after seeing early results showing Bienert getting 98% of the vote.

Cohen called out the county board of elections and the results came down.

Another person caught this aberrant result. (I redacted the person’s identity from the tweet.)

Even Bienert didn’t believe it. She told the Baltimore Sun, “I’m very excited by these numbers, but I do think there’s been a misreporting.”

All of this will remind folks of the botched city election of four years ago, when activists alleged “irregularities, including late-opening polling stations; alleged conflicts of interest among campaign staffers who worked as election judges; polling-machine memory sticks that were missing for about 24 hours; and problems with resources, including shortages of ballots and ballpoint pens at some centers.” Future federal convict Catherine Pugh wound up winning the race for Mayor.

I am hearing that the State Board of Elections will address the matter today. For now, this tweet on Cohen’s thread says it all.

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Baltimore City Election Results Taken Down

By Adam Pagnucco.

Last night at 11:20 PM, these early results for Mayor of Baltimore City were posted on the State Board of Elections website.

The city’s other races had early results too.

As of this writing, this is what the early results for the mayor’s race looks like.

Last night, the State Board of Elections’ county status page showed Baltimore City as sending in partial vote-by-mail results. Below is what that page looks like now. The city is the only jurisdiction shown as not sending any results despite the early returns posted last night.

What is going on?

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First School Board Results Favor Harris

By Adam Pagnucco.

The first batch of MoCo school board results released by the State Board of Elections (SBE) at approximately 11:20 PM tonight favor former county PTA president Lynne Harris.

The results below were posted by SBE minutes ago.

This is still a very early report. The number of votes cast in the at-large school board race (54,336) is roughly half the 103,555 ballots reported as received by the county’s board of elections this morning. The tally does not include in-person voting today, provisional ballots or ballots not yet received. So far, 59,627 votes have been cast for president, indicating that many ballots have not yet been counted. (Joe Biden has received 42,203 votes from MoCo Democrats for 86% of their vote and Donald Trump has received 8,142 votes from MoCo Republicans for 77% of their vote.)

Harris was endorsed by the Washington Post. Universities at Shady Grove professor Sunil Dasgupta, currently in second place, was endorsed by the Montgomery County Education Association. Financial analyst Stephen Austin is in striking distance of Dasgupta in third place. The top two finishers in the primary advance to the general election.

Sheila Dixon, who resigned her office as Mayor of Baltimore in 2010 after being convicted by a jury of misdemeanor embezzlement, is currently leading in the city’s Democratic primary for mayor. Like MoCo’s school board race, a lot of votes remain to be counted.

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Maryland Needs to Do Much Better to Protect the 2020 Elections

Yesterday, the State Board of Elections made a bad decision. They decided to switch to all-mail voting for this year’s elections (fine) but doing so without putting in standard protections (definitely not fine) taken by states like Oregon that conduct all of their elections by mail:

Board members questioned how the state will verify that ballots are being cast by the actual voters they sent them to. Charlson said the state’s current absentee ballot procedure is to check for a signature.

“We’re not actually looking at the signatures, are we?” asked Howells. “In vote-by-mail states, I think they used software to compare the signatures.”

“Our problem is we are not a vote-by-mail state, so we have no real safeguards built into it,” Cogan said.

The board quickly moved on from the topic.

Read my op-ed piece online now or in the print edition of tomorrow’s Baltimore Sun to learn more on why this is a problem and more generally what the State needs to do to make sure the 2020 elections come off well despite challenges posed by coronavirus. Otherwise, close elections like the upcoming Baltimore City mayoral primary could go bad surprisingly fast.

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Redistricting’s Biggest Losers

The current crop of state legislators is just one year into their current term. But after next year’s session they’ll have to begin grappling with redistricting—one of the most potentially divisive issues that the General Assembly faces. The State Constitution gives Republican Governor Hogan the upper hand in theory. However, the Democratic supermajority can impose their own plan if they remain united.

Population shifts along with Maryland’s requirement to adhere to county and municipal boundaries where possible without violating the federal Voting Rights Act create clear winners and losers in the process.

Which districts are most below the ideal population for a district? Once again, Baltimore City looks set to play an evil game of musical chairs, as its districts will be below the ideal district population. Here are the districts falling shortest in population according to the 2013-2017 American Community Survey estimates:

  1. Baltimore City District 40, 86.5% of ideal.
  2. Baltimore City District 45, 90.6%.
  3. Baltimore City District 41, 91.0%.
  4. Baltimore County District 44B (2 delegates), 92.5%.
  5. Baltimore County District 43, 93.0%.
  6. Allegany/Washington Counties 1C (1 delegate), 93.3%.
  7. Prince George’s District 25, 93.4%.
  8. Baltimore City District 44A, 93.8%.
  9. Prince George’s District 23A (1 delegate), 94.0%.
  10. Garrett/Allegany Counties 1A (1 delegate), 94.8%.
  11. Prince George’s District 24, 94.8%.
  12. Allegany County 1B (1 delegate), 95.7%.

As these estimates are based on surveys conducted between 2013 and 2017, they likely indicate only 50% of the decade’s changes. Unless population dynamics change a lot towards the end of the 2010s, these areas will likely be farther below the state requirement by the 2020 Census.

When possible, Maryland reallocates prisoners back to their home last place of residence, which may aid some districts a bit but will further hurt districts where prisons are located. For example, prisoners housed at Frostburg located in District 1, already one of the biggest losers, will be allocated back to their previous residence where possible. As in past decades, District 1 will have to continue its steady march east into Washington County with Garrett’s share of District 1A declining again.

Baltimore City faces a much greater challenge. It currently has five full legislative districts along with a one delegate subdistrict. However, based on the survey, it only now merits 4.85 districts. One delegate is already gone with Subdistrict 44A the obvious nominee to take the hit.

My guess is that, even after adding prisoners back, population figures could make the case for taking one more delegate away (i.e. straddling one district into Baltimore County as now). No doubt Baltimore legislators will fight fiercely to keep the whole district within the City in the name of respecting municipal boundaries. Republicans won’t like this idea but will be ill-positioned to stop it if Democrats can remain united around a plan.

Assuming Baltimore City succeeds in staunching the hemorrhage, Districts 40 would slide west and District 41 would ooze south to eat up disappearing District 44A. Districts 43, 45 and 46 would then move west a bit into current Districts 40 and 41 to even out population across the City a bit. Other line changes could occur if, for example, a powerful legislator wants to draw the home of a possible challenger or successor out or into the district.

The fun and acrimony are just getting started.

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SEIU Targets Senator Shirley Nathan-Pulliam for Defeat

By Adam Pagnucco.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), one of Maryland’s most powerful labor unions, has targeted District 44 Senator Shirley Nathan-Pulliam for defeat by running one of their own against her.  Aletheia McCaskill, a rank-and-file leader in SEIU Local 500, is announcing her challenge to the incumbent on Saturday.  Nathan-Pulliam has antagonized SEIU and several other progressive organizations by dragging her heels on last session’s sick leave bill, which she ultimately voted for.

Several things make this race interesting.

1.  SEIU has a record of defeating Senate incumbents, including Nat Exum and David Harrington (Prince George’s County), Rona Kramer (Montgomery County) and George Della (Baltimore City). Their negative mail against Exum was particularly devastating.

One of at least seven anti-Exum mailers from SEIU.

2.  Nathan-Pulliam has not had a truly competitive election in her entire career. She walked into her current Senate seat after the incumbent retired and had five straight cakewalk House races before that.  She is also not a great fundraiser, raising $77,695 in the 2006 cycle, $72,363 in the 2010 cycle and $124,732 in the 2014 cycle.  She reported $33,533 in the bank in January.  Those are easy numbers for a big organization like SEIU to overcome.

3.  Many labor organizations have supported Nathan-Pulliam over the years, including AFT Maryland, MSEA, the Fire Fighters, the Police, UFCW Local 400, several building trades local unions, the AFL-CIO and SEIU. Those unions have given her more than $30,000 over the last four cycles.  How many of them will follow SEIU’s lead and dump the incumbent?

SEIU endorses Nathan-Pulliam in 2014.

4.  Nathan-Pulliam has not represented many of her current constituents all that long. True, she has been in office since 1994.  But her district has changed substantially since then.  District 44 now includes a portion of the western part of Baltimore City along with Lochearn, Woodlawn, Catonsville and the areas around US-40 and I-70 in Baltimore County.  Prior to that, Nathan-Pulliam represented District 10.  During the 2000s, District 10 did not include any part of the City and during the 1990s, the City portions it did include are not part of today’s District 44.  This somewhat erodes the advantage a decades-long incumbent would normally have.

5.  At age 78, Nathan-Pulliam could decide not to fight SEIU and simply retire.

We reprint McCaskill’s kickoff announcement below.

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Event: Working Families Democrat and SEIU Union Leader Aletheia McCaskill announces a Democratic primary challenge in Maryland’s 44th State Senatorial District

Date:  September 9, 2017, 2:00-4:00

Where: Karate Family Center 1101 N. Rolling Road, Catonsville, MD 21228

Aletheia McCaskill is a wife, mother, activist and advocate who has owned her own small business providing early learning child care services to the residents of West Baltimore and Western Baltimore County for over 20 years.  She got involved on issues of economic justice such as the fight for fair wages and earned sick leave legislation because of the reality she saw in the lives of the families whose children she provided care for.  She has been the Statewide Political Member Leader for the largest Maryland local in the Service Employees International Union and has been a leader in the fight in Baltimore and Annapolis to pass the Women’s Economic Security Agenda- a package of bills aimed at  providing some measure of economic stability for the working families of the 44th.  Aletheia believes that the 44th District deserved a choice, she wants to be our voice in Annapolis fighting for stronger schools and for finally giving our Seniors the services and facilities WITHIN the 44th, that they deserve.

https://www.mccaskill44.com/

For Press or scheduling, please contact:

Mark Jason McLaurin, Political Director

SEIU Local 500

901 Russell Avenue, Suite 300

Gaithersburg, MD 20879

(301) 740-7100 – Voice

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