Voter Fraud Found In '89 Council Race

November 14, 1990|By Paul Shread | Paul Shread,Staff writer

Investigators are recommending changes in the way Annapolis handles its absentee ballots after finding evidence of voter fraud in a 1989 City Council race.

But county and state investigators have decided not to press charges against candidate Michael T. Brown, despite evidence that three ballots returned by his campaign were fraudulent. Brown lost to Alderman Wayne C.

Turner, R-Ward 6, by four votes in last year's municipal elections.

"There were absentee ballots cast on his behalf where voters said they didn't vote for him or authorize anyone to vote for them, but we couldn't tie him to any of the wrongdoing," said Assistant State's Attorney Frank Ragione, who wrote a report on the case that will be released soon.

Brown said he was pleased by the outcome of the investigation, but said he was not pleased by the timing. He charged that the investigation was delayed to discredit his District 30 House of Delegates campaign, which ended in defeat in the September Democratic primary.

Brown also said his campaign was not responsible for the fraudulent ballots. "No one in my campaign was involved," he said. "My campaign was not the only one out there campaigning that day."

Ragione denied that investigators delayed their work on the case. He said the Office of the State Prosecutor, which helped with the investigation, was busy with murder investigations and couldn't spend more time on the Brown case.

"It may have been bad timing, but it wasn't intentional," Ragione said.

The statute of limitations on election violations is one year. Ragione said officials decided not to charge Brown a few days before last week's general election.

Investigators began looking into eight ballots after city election officials noticed a misspelled name and signatures that didn't match.

Democrat Arthur Greenbaum, who worked for Turner, asked investigators to look into the ballots.

Ragione said three of the eight voters could not be interviewed. He said three of the five who were interviewed -- the three fraudulent ballots -- said they did not cast a vote in the election. Two requested absentee ballots but said they did not vote, and one did not request an absentee ballot.

Michael Brown was listed as the agent for the absentee voters, but handwriting analysis proved inconclusive.

"Michael Brown's name was there," Ragione said. "I can't say whether that was Michael Brown's signature."

The election violations would have carried maximum six-month sentences, Ragione said.

The investigators recommended that the city mention on its absentee ballot forms that anyone casting a fraudulent ballot would be guilty of perjury. A perjury conviction would have carried a maximum 10-year sentence, he said.

They also recommended requiring the agent to sign the affidavit in the presence of the voter, and requiring the voter's signature to confirm the identity of the agent.

Greenbaum, who brought the case to the investigators' attention, said he was writing a letter to the editor about the decision.

"It's not to indict Michael Brown, but Michael's problem was indicative of what was going on in the city at the time," Greenbaum said.

Alan Legum, Brown's attorney, said of the investigators' decision, "In any campaign, the candidate is not aware of everything that goes on. There will just have to be some unanswered questions. I'm really happy for him, that they decided they didn't have enough evidence to press charges."

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