Schmoke issues warning: Don't intimidate voters CAMPAIGN 1994

November 02, 1994|By Thomas W. Waldron and Michael A. Fletcher | Thomas W. Waldron and Michael A. Fletcher,Sun Staff Writers

Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke vowed yesterday that police would arrest anyone trying to intimidate city voters Tuesday, while Democratic leaders and others stepped up their criticism of a group formed to monitor "ballot security."

Plans by Republican gadfly Ross Z. Pierpont to station security guards at certain polling places in the city and elsewhere are "an attempt to harass and intimidate black people," Mr. Schmoke said.

"They are not going to be successful in the city or anywhere else," he said. "We're going to fight back."

In Washington, civil rights groups referred to Dr. Pierpont's group yesterday as they announced the creation of a national toll-free hot line to field complaints about efforts to suppress voters.

Even as opposition grew, some Maryland Democrats said Dr. Pierpont's plans would only backfire by swelling black turnout on Election Day, something seen as crucial to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Parris N. Glendening's chances.

"I'm hoping it will have a very positive effect and will be a gift in disguise," said Del. Elijah E. Cummings, a Baltimore Democrat who was among about 70 community leaders who joined Mr. Schmoke at a City Hall news conference. "I think this only helps to get people out."

Mr. Glendening, the three-term Prince George's County executive, is favored by about nine out of 10 black voters, according to recent polls.

Dr. Pierpont, a retired surgeon and perennial candidate, said yesterday that he is still trying to raise money to hire security guards to make sure that only registered voters cast ballots.

He said he doesn't know how much the group will spend but has said previously that he hoped it would raise at least $15,000. "A lot of people are making promises," he said yesterday. "We'll do what we can."

Of his Democratic critics, he said, "I'm delighted to see them all excited. . . . Methinks they doth protest too much."

Dr. Pierpont said last week that he hoped to dispatch poll watchers to some polling places in Baltimore's inner city and possibly elsewhere. Asked whether he was trying to hold down the black vote, which regularly is heavily Democratic, Dr. Pierpont said, "If it's honest and everything is perfectly straightforward, there's no reason anybody should be concerned."

Dr. Pierpont's group, the Knights and Dames of Freedom, listed contributions of $1,950 in a report filed with the state election board last week.

One contributor, Baltimore attorney Samuel Cook, told The Sun this week that he asked Dr. Pierpont for his $100 back after learning more about the group's plans.

"To target any particular locale, I don't want any part of it," Mr. Cook said.

State law permits candidates or political parties to send observers to polls, but they are permitted to challenge voters only if they have reason to think they are not registered, state officials said.

In an letter to Gene M. Raynor, the state election administrator, Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. said such observers would need proper credentials from the candidate or party and would not be allowed to wear uniforms.

City election officials asked Dr. Pierpont to meet with them today to remind him what the law allows.

The NAACP, in conjunction with other civil rights groups, announced yesterday that it had established a hot line to combat what the groups called "repeated efforts to harass and intimidate minority voters."

The hot line -- (800) 775-VOTE -- was set up to encourage minorities to monitor voting and to file complaints if they see irregularities. It also is intended to discourage voter intimidation, which NAACP and other officials called a common practice for suppressing the black and Hispanic vote. The hot line will stay open until a week after the election.

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