Glendening files a dozen countersuits to Sauerbrey's absentee challenges

November 26, 1994|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,Sun Staff Writer

Lawyers for Democrat Parris N. Glendening, Maryland's apparent governor-elect, have sued 12 local election boards, countering a lawsuit filed by Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey over absentee ballots in Montgomery County.

Mr. Glendening's lawyers want voters in the 12 counties treated the same as voters in Montgomery County, according to lawsuits filed late Wednesday and yesterday. Absentee ballots in those 12 counties were handled similarly to the ones in Montgomery County.

Mrs. Sauerbrey challenged about 2,000 absentee ballots in Montgomery County that are the subject of her lawsuit. Those ballots, however, were counted as part of official vote tallies in the Nov. 8 general election.

Each of the Glendening lawsuits asks the courts to act only if a decision in the Montgomery County case invalidates any of the absentee ballots challenged by Mrs. Sauerbrey, said Bruce L. Marcus, the lead attorney for Mr. Glendening.

"We don't wish to contest any of these matters, but we are concerned that the way Mrs. Sauerbrey had filed her suit would create a disparity in the ways that votes are handled in Montgomery County . . . and the other 12 jurisdictions," Mr. Marcus said.

"If she quits, there shouldn't be any action," he said, calling the lawsuits "protective filings."

Of the 1.4 million votes cast, Mr. Glendening won by exactly 6,000 votes over Mrs. Sauerbrey, according to certified tallies by the state's 24 local election boards.

Mr. Marcus said lawsuits were filed late Wednesday in Anne Arundel, Calvert, Carroll, Dorchester, Frederick, Garrett, Harford, Howard, Washington, and Wicomico counties, as well as in Mr. Glendening's home county of Prince George's -- one of only three jurisdictions he carried in the general election. The suit in Baltimore County was filed yesterday, he said. "If Mrs. Sauerbrey believed that these votes [in Montgomery County] were illegal, one would have assumed that she would have made the same challenge everywhere those issues arose or existed."

John P. Connors, a Republican National Committee lawyer heading Mrs. Sauerbrey's legal team, declined to comment. But Mrs. Sauerbrey issued a one-sentence response: "I was glad to see Parris Glendening has conceded there were voting irregularities and has joined us in contesting the election."

Mr. Marcus denied that the Glendening suits had anything to do with irregularities, saying they dealt rather with legal technicalities.

"All I want to do is ensure that there is no disparity in the treatment of voters in this state, based on where they live," he said. "If you all decide to throw them out, throw them all out; if you all decide to leave them in, leave them all in."

Lawyers for Mrs. Sauerbrey filed suit in Montgomery Circuit Court on Nov. 11 -- three days after the general election -- asking that about 2,000 absentee ballots be set aside because they did not comply with the letter of Maryland's election law.

The majority of them -- about 1,200 -- were cast without a required affidavit stating the voter's identity and reason for not voting at the polls. An additional 808 were opened by elections officials early -- before 4 p.m. on the Wednesday after the election, the time stipulated in Maryland law.

The outcome of a preliminary hearing on the matter before a Montgomery County circuit judge Nov. 11 was that the election board there agreed to include the ballots in its tally but keep them segregated, in the event a future court action required that they be invalidated. In that case, the Montgomery County election board has about three more weeks to respond to the suit.

Mr. Glendening carried Montgomery County, where he received 149,015 votes, including 5,252 absentee ballots, compared with Mrs. Sauerbrey's 104,988 votes, including 3,583 absentees.

In the third jurisdiction won by Mr. Glendening, Baltimore City, teams of Sauerbrey supporters continued yesterday making copies of voter records at the election board in an effort to prove their allegations of voter fraud in the city.

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