Ghost voters are hardly an unheard-of phenomenon in Maryland politics, and in the close Senate race in Baltimore's 43rd District between Sen. John A. Pica Jr. and Martin O'Malley, a few dozen of them could have changed the result: Mr. Pica won by 44 votes.
But someone who had a chance to cast a ghost vote last week decided to play it straight instead.
Counting the decisive absentee ballots from the 43rd District Thursday in a packed room of the city elections board, a clerk pulled out a ballot that had been ripped apart and mailed back. Curt Baer, campaign chairman for Senator Pica, called for the state elections chief, Gene Raynor. "We have a torn ballot over here," he said. "It says, 'Deceased'."
Mr. Raynor confiscated the ballot and turned it over to the elections board's lawyer, Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Israel. The four-member board decided it should investigate whether the voter was still alive. It put in a call to the state health department's Bureau of Vital Statistics and waited for an answer. The news was not good.
"The person is dead," said board President Marvin L. Cheatham, who joined the other members in voting unanimously to disqualify the ballot.
Mr. O'Malley didn't want to ask for a recount, but he didn't want to wonder for the rest of his life if he should have.
So he and several supporters drove to a Franklintown Road warehouse to check the actual vote totals recorded on the back of the voting booths used in the 43rd District -- as candidates have done in the past.
The numbers were the same as those printed on sheets of paper produced by the voting machines -- which had been used by election officials Thursday to tally the Senate race score. Mr. O'Malley said there would be no recount.
"It is what it is," the 27-year-old Baltimore lawyer said. Mr. O'Malley said friends are advising him to "take an ice pill, chill out and don't make any hasty decisions."
Mr. O'Malley wasn't the only city legislative candidate to get pumped up by early returns only to be let down by the final numbers.
When Benjamin Neil's client called him Thursday morning and told him he had won his race for a House of Delegates seat, the Highlandtown lawyer told the fellow to "stop fooling around. I have work to do."
But then the Baltimore elections board released an unofficial count of the votes cast in the 46th Legislative District. And sure enough, it had Mr. Neil 55 votes ahead of Carolyn Krysiak, who was running against Mr. Neil for the House seat with the backing of the political organization of state Sen. American Joe Miedusiewski. An elated Mr. Neil rushed down to the election board.
His victory, however, was short-lived.
The unofficial results released by the city board Thursday and printed in Friday's editions of The Sun had given Mr. Neil the wi:6because a clerk mistakenly gave him 888 votes from one precinct where he had only 88.
He actually lost the race by about 800 votes, according to Mr. Raynor.
Having a Baltimore County Outreach Van distribute literature about county services at the Parkville Festival last weekend was standard procedure. But some at the festival were bothered that the van's inventory included small American flags with stickers attached that were paid for by County Executive Dennis F. Rasmussen's re-election campaign.
The flags and stickers were available on a table inside the van andread "Proud to Live in America and Baltimore County." They were marked as paid for by "Citizens for Good Government," Mr. Rasmussen's re-election campaign committee. The executive's name appears in small letters in a bottom corner.
"It bothered us. It seemed to be a blatant political statement in part of what was an otherwise county-oriented service," said Robert J. Kilpatrick of White Marsh.
Mr. Rasmussen said the flags have been distributed for the past three years and are intended only to instill pride in the flag. He said he never viewed them as a campaign tool.
"I wouldn't say that they were something that was political in nature," he said. But he said one other person at the festival complained, and that the flags will be pulled out of the van.
As Gov. William Donald Schaefer launches his bid for the November general election, his office has announced the start of yet another campaign group: Republicans for Schaefer.
William S. Shepard, the Republican nominee for governor, was unimpressed.
"We're going to have Democrats for Shepard, too. It's the ordinary thing that one does," Mr. Shepard said.
A press release from the Schaefer camp says the new group will be headed by three people: Courtney McKeldin, of the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors' Association; Pam Shriver, tennis professional, and Theodore R. McKeldin Jr., attorney.
"Three? That may be as many as they're going to get," Mr. Shepard said.
Mr. Shephard's supporters already include most of the state's Republican Party stars, including former U.S. Sens. Charles McC. Mathias Jr. and J. Glenn Beall Jr.
"I'm sure the McKeldins and Pam Shriver are fine people," Mr. Shepard said, "but they're not Mac Mathias."