Sauerbrey case shrinks, along with her numbers

January 10, 1995|By MICHAEL OLESKER

Go figure. Ellen Sauerbrey, who once flung numbers hither and yon in search of an election turn-around, finally brought her charges of voter fraud to Anne Arundel Circuit Court yesterday, but she left all her arithmetic at home.

There was no mention of the 50,000 illegal votes she'd once claimed, nor even the 14,000 she was alleging as late as last weekend. Not a passing reference to the 4,774 prison inmates she once accused of miraculously voting, nor even the 10 she'd finally narrowed it down to Sunday night. No more talk of "hundreds" of dead people casting votes, nor even the handful on whom she'd fallen back. No talk of 49,000 incorrect addresses, nor even her last estimate of 4,300. No talk of double voting, except from Bruce Marcus, who did it with a kind of gleeful scorn.

Marcus is Parris Glendening's attorney. He stood there yesterday, voice dripping with cynicism, and pointed out that, among those names the Sauerbrey people dug up as "double voters," was one Stephen Sachs, the state's former U.S. attorney, former attorney general and former Democratic candidate for governor.

"They say he voted twice," Marcus declared incredulously. "They've alleged Steve Sachs voted twice."

And not only Sachs. Among other names a Sauerbrey computer dug out, alleging one kind of fraudulent voting or another, was Robert Murphy. That name belongs to the chief judge of Maryland's highest court. Oh, and Richard Bennett. A guy with his name ran for attorney general of Maryland. As a Republican.

"The Incredible Shrinking Case," Marcus called it. He mentioned the alleged 4,774 inmate votes, now shrunk to a mere 44. Once, the 4,774 represented a pretty sizable bloc of Sauerbrey's claim of voter fraud, a charge that votes were cast by illegally using the names of people behind bars.

"What they did," Marcus said, "was take Division of Correction lists, and voting records, and put them in a computer. If names matched, they claimed these were disenfranchised people. Thus, they came up with Richard Bennett. And Robert Murphy."

Sauerbrey sat in a front-row seat, dressed all in black with a black-eyed Susan pin in her lapel. She sat between her running mate, Paul Rappaport, and her husband. She was hugged by various supporters, who seemed nonplused by the shrinking numbers thrown around in recent weeks, which disappeared altogether yesterday.

"We represent not Ellen Sauerbrey, but the voters of this state," Sauerbrey's attorney, John Carbone, contended. "The voters expect a full, free and fair" election.

But, in an opening statement that went about half an hour, Carbone never mentioned any numbers, not of dead people, nor inmates, nor people who'd changed addresses but not their registration.

The closest he came to any number was a reference to prison inmates. "Not a great many," he said. "But some."

Not 4,700.

Some.

The casual tossing-about of numbers was for other occasions, for Sauerbrey calling press conferences in past weeks and standing there with noisy supporters for the TV cameras, for whom she declared the election for governor had been "stolen" from her.

Nobody mentioned such a word yesterday. Carbone talked about the mechanics of voting machines, about "doubt" cast in the minds of voters on the "reliability of numbers." But what created this doubt, if not Sauerbrey's claims of the past two months?

Her frustrations are understandable. In an election in which 1.4 million votes were cast, in which she rose from invisibility in the polls to come within 6,000 votes of the statehouse, she deserves credit for a good try.

If she'd simply questioned the results and bowed out, she might have been dubbed a noble martyr and aimed for election in four years. But now, after tossing the wildest charges of criminal fraud, she's painted herself into a tight corner.

"Fraud?" Bruce Marcus said yesterday. "That's been debunked. Now they want to put election boards on trial, because that's all they have. There's no problem in Maryland, and the voters should be resentful" of this case.

When Sauerbrey walked out of court, a reporter asked, "Are you sticking with your language that the election was 'stolen' from you?"

Sauerbrey turned away, and said nothing at all.

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