GOP begins inspection of city voter records in search of Sauerbrey victory

November 22, 1994|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,Sun Staff Writer Sun staff writers Thomas W. Waldron and Brad Snyder contributed to this article.

Dozens of GOP volunteers, led by a lawyer for the Republican National Committee, descended on the Baltimore elections board yesterday, as supporters of Ellen R. Sauerbrey widened their efforts to prove that the race for governor was stolen through voter fraud.

After receiving the go-ahead of the three-member Baltimore elections board, the Republicans unloaded four photocopy machines and reams of paper about 1 p.m. and began copying thousands of pages of voter information from 408 precinct binders.

The supporters of Mrs. Sauerbrey, who appears to have lost her gubernatorial bid to Democrat Parris N. Glendening by about 5,400 votes, tried more than a week ago to obtain the records of seven city precincts, alleging voter irregularities and fraud. But a Baltimore circuit judge ruled that they could not inspect the records until the city board certified the vote. Although the city vote in the Nov. 8 general election will not be certified until late today, the board decided to approve the GOP effort anyway, said Barbara E. Jackson, administrator of the city Board of Supervisors of Elections.

"We decided that the sooner we give them what they want . . . it would be better for all concerned," Ms. Jackson said.

The Glendening campaign and Maryland Democratic Party, which sent representatives yesterday, were notified of the decision, she said.

The Republicans, however, have cast a larger net than their initial request for information on the seven precincts, Ms. Jackson said. Withdrawing that request, they now want to examine the records of everyone who voted in the city, she said.

The Republicans have formally requested mountains of voter records from elections boards throughout the state, but Baltimore, where Mr. Glendening won by a heavy margin, appears to be their prime focus.

In Montgomery County last week, for instance, Sauerbrey representatives spent a day comparing signatures on cards signed by voters on Election Day with those on their registration cards, as well as the corresponding voter cards from the 1992 elections.

After about 225 comparisons produced nothing suspicious, they gave up, said Carol S. Evans, Montgomery Count's elections administrator.

In the city, copying the contents of precinct binders -- the official rosters of registered voters, some of which have nearly 200 pages -- is just the first step, said John P. Connors, the RNC's deputy general counsel for political affairs.

Next, Mr. Connors said, three shifts of "12 to 15 volunteers" each will copy about 146,000 voter-authorization cards -- those cards signed by city voters in the general election before entering voting booths.

Eventually, as a check against possible forgery or voter fraud, the Republicans want to compare signatures on those cards with signatures on original voter registration applications, some of which are in storage on a North Franklintown Road warehouse, Ms. Jackson said.

"It's a slow and tedious process," Mr. Connors said.

"Our people have been feeding the beast all day long. . . . This is information gathering in the rawest, truest sense."

Asked whether he had found any indication of voter fraud, Mr. Connors said: "Until we've completed our analysis phase, we won't be able to comment. We're not going to comment in dribs and drabs. We're going to finish, analyze and our report will be made public."

Ms. Jackson estimated that copying just the precinct binders would take until early next week, particularly given the Thanksgiving holiday.

"They have 20 days after certification to challenge" the vote, Ms. Jackson said, "and they're going to spend all 20 days making copies."

By her count, the 20-day deadline would be up Dec. 12, she said.

"This is getting a little old," said Sen. John A. Pica Jr., a Baltimore Democrat who helped the Glendening camp in legal skirmishes with the Sauerbrey troops over access to records.

Mr. Pica said it's possible Mrs. Sauerbrey's investigators will find isolated cases of voting irregularities, such as people voting in the wrong precinct after moving. But, he said, "There was no organized fraud on Election Day.

"She can do whatever she pleases in the city. But the election is over and she's not the next governor," Mr. Pica said. "She won't be raising her right arm in January."

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