Day 3 and counting, but no governor-elect Both sides still nourish hopes of victory ELECTION 1994

November 11, 1994|By Doug Birch | Doug Birch,Sun Staff Writer Sun staff writers Thomas W. Waldron, John W. Frece, Mike Farabaugh, James M. Coram and Robert Erlandson contributed to this article.

Maryland enters its third day of election gridlock today after challenges by both parties stalled the counting of thousands of absentee ballots crucial to the outcome of the governor's race.

State election officials said that they hoped to have a complete tally by tonight but that it might take until tomorrow.

Yesterday, elections board offices in Montgomery County, Baltimore City and Baltimore County were jammed with lawyers and political partisans arguing, debating and closely scrutinizing ballots.

Democrats generally challenged ballots filed in those counties that supported the Republican, Del. Ellen R. Sauerbrey. Republicans, meanwhile, objected to ballots in strongholds of the Democrat, Prince George's County Executive Parris N. Glendening.

Republican lawyers threatened to go to court today to attempt to throw out all 8,745 absentee ballots filed in Montgomery County, a bastion of support for Mr. Glendening. Among those ballots are those of conservative columnist George Will, who praised Mrs. Sauerbrey recently as Maryland's Margaret Thatcher; Jack Kemp, the former U.S. housing secretary who campaigned for Mrs. Sauerbrey; and Paul Tagliabue, commissioner of the National Football League.

"It's the Super Bowl of politics in sudden-death overtime," said Gene M. Raynor, the state elections administrator, who spent the day at the Baltimore city elections board.

With reports in from 18 counties, Mrs. Sauerbrey had 12,037 absentee votes and Mr. Glendening 7,592. That cut his 6,187-vote lead in Tuesday's balloting to just 1,742 by last night.

But the absentee votes counted so far came from rural counties and the Baltimore suburbs, Mrs. Sauerbrey's strongholds. And in most of those areas, Mr. Glendening was receiving about the same percentage of the absentee votes as he did at the polls Tuesday.

Should that trend hold, Mr. Glendening would wind up the victor when the three subdivisions he carried Tuesday -- Baltimore City and Prince George's and Montgomery counties -- are finally counted.

The Glendening campaign, in a written statement, said the results so far "reinforce our confidence that Parris Glendening will win this election." But Mrs. Sauerbrey insisted yesterday that she will win.

"It's very clear that we will have no final result in this election for some time to come," Mrs. Sauerbrey said at her Cockeysville headquarters. "I am putting my opponent on notice. I am conceding nothing. There is no governor-elect."

Even after the absentee ballots are added to Tuesday's tally, the process won't be over. Election officials will spend much of next week reviewing the Tuesday returns from all 1,702 polling places across the state. Only when they've finished will they certify official results, expected to happen next Friday.

Mrs. Sauerbrey yesterday repeated charges that the voting was marred by "improprieties," handing out a copy of an Oct. 27 memo on Glendening campaign stationery offering money to workers to help get out the vote on Election Day.

"It offered a $25 stipend for that kind of activity," Mrs. Sauerbrey said. "I think that's called walking-around money."

State law bans candidates from paying campaign workers for many Election Day activities.

Emily Smith, Mr. Glendening's campaign manager, responded to Mrs. Sauerbrey's allegation by saying there was never a plan to pay walk-around money and none was ever paid.

As for the memo, Ms. Smith said it was transmitted by the state Democratic Party, which planned to pay the $25 in lieu of providing meals on Election Day for volunteers. The Glendening letterhead was part of the supplies and equipment turned over to the state party after the primary election, she said.

Former Gov. Harry R. Hughes, the chairman of the state party, gave the same account. "I think it was an innocent mistake," he said of the memo. He added that the stipends were not paid and that the party provided meals to the workers instead.

Mrs. Sauerbrey also cited a report that about 1,000 ballots were not counted in Montgomery County Tuesday because of a mechanical foul-up.

The actual number was about 500, said Carol S. Evans, administrator of Montgomery County's election board.

She said the ballots will be counted along with the absentee votes, and said similar mistakes are made and caught every election.

Republicans appeared to be the first to launch a wholesale challenge of absentee ballots yesterday, when they told Montgomery County election officials that many absentee voters hadn't signed required affidavits.

Those affidavits affirm, under penalty of perjury, the voter's identity and state his or her reason for not being able to vote at the polls.

By law, affidavits must be on file for every absentee ballot received.

But absentee ballots seldom make the difference in a high-profile race, and in practice election boards around the state have not always required them.

Democrats responded by themselves challenging absentee ballots in Baltimore County, Harford County and elsewhere.

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