New Long Reach vote challenged First-time winner seeks injunction

June 03, 1993|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff Writer

Just days before Long Reach village voters are set to go back to the polls, Columbia Council candidate Gail Bailey wants a judge to tell them not to bother.

Ms. Bailey, the apparent victor in the disputed April 24 election, has sued in Howard Circuit Court seeking an injunction preventing the village from holding a new election Saturday. She would prefer that Judge Raymond Kane Jr. validate voting results that originally showed her to be a 386-to-157 winner.

"I still believe I won the election," she said. "If you don't like the out come, you don't change the rules afterward. . . . It's undemocratic to change the outcome. It leads one to wonder if there are any rules at all, and that's anarchy."

Her opponent, Roy T. Lyons, was unsympathetic.

"Apparently she doesn't think she can win the election by popular vote," said Mr. Lyons. "What she's doing can't possibly be in the best interest of the Long Reach village electorate."

Mr. Lyons protested the election, charging that 276 votes cast for his opponent by two apartment building owners gave the race to Ms. Bailey. The apartment owners cast ballots for each unit in their buildings.

Following the advice of a Baltimore law firm, the Long Reach election committee ruled May 14 that the election that pitted six-year incumbent Ms. Bailey against Mr. Lyons was conducted incorrectly, and the village board decided to stage a new vote.

The election committee ruled that Long Reach had interpreted its covenants incorrectly for years by allowing apartment building owners to cast votes for each apartment.

Covenants in seven other Columbia villages entitle owners of more than one residential unit or lot to multiple votes, but interpretations of the rules vary among the unincorporated city's 10 villages. Only two villages follow a more simple "one person, one vote" policy.

In the lawsuit, Ms. Bailey rejects the private law firm's interpretation of the voting rules that formed the basis of Long Reach's decisions. She argued that the voting eligibility rules -- including apartment owners' voting rights -- were agreed upon during an April 23 election committee meeting and should be upheld.

Judge Kane has scheduled a private conference in his chambers today. Named in the lawsuit are the Long Reach Community Association and the Columbia Association, the nonprofit organization that administers an annual $30 million budget at the direction of the 10-member Columbia Council.

Ms. Bailey called the lawsuit a "last-minute thing," saying that it could benefit the community. "There are a lot of unanswered questions. Nobody really knows what the rules are. We need to get some answers," she said.

The Long Reach village board scheduled a closed-door meeting last night.

"I'd have to assume [the village board decision to conduct a new election] stands," said board member Phil Blustein before the meeting. "There's no reason to assume that's changed."

Ms. Bailey has been criticized by some Columbia Council members and residents, who labeled her victory undemocratic, unethical and a manipulation of the system.

The council and some village representatives have called for re-evaluating Columbia's election procedures.

Mr. Lyons predicted that Long Reach residents would frown upon the legal challenge and that it could "backfire" on Ms. Bailey.

"Any way this thing goes, she is probably about to wear out her welcome with people in the community," he said.

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