Sauerbrey expert hints at fraud

January 12, 1995|By Thomas W. Waldron and Michael James | Thomas W. Waldron and Michael James,Sun Staff Writers

There were too many irregularities in Baltimore during the gubernatorial election for such things to have happened by chance, a political science professor testified yesterday during Ellen R. Sauerbrey's court challenge.

Arnold B. Urken, a professor at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J., said he had spent 100 hours analyzing reports of voting problems compiled by Mrs. Sauerbrey's investigators.

While Dr. Urken never said outright that he believed fraud had occurred, as Mrs. Sauerbrey has claimed repeatedly, he strongly hinted at such.

"There was an abnormal rate of system breakdown in Baltimore City," he said. "The data indicates the likelihood of those patterns occurring by chance is very, very small."

The expert testimony of Dr. Urken on the trial's third day was designed to buttress Mrs. Sauerbrey's contention that the November election, which she lost to Democrat Gov.-elect Parris N. Glendening by 5,993 votes, should be overturned.

But lawyers for Mr. Glendening and state election officials strongly contested Dr. Urken's conclusions since they were based on numbers supplied by Mrs. Sauerbrey's investigators, not official records.

"He doesn't know how these documents were created. This testimony, on its best day, would not be admissible in any court," said Bruce L. Marcus, the lead Glendening attorney. The improprieties that Dr. Urken cited included nearly 2,000 voters who both sides acknowledge should have been purged from the rolls before the election because they had not voted for five years.

But it was unclear how much impact Dr. Urken's testimony would have because other alleged improprieties included in his analysis have not been introduced into evidence. For example, Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Raymond G. Thieme Jr. barred Mrs. Sauerbrey's lawyers from presenting a list of voters who they allege may have moved without changing their registration.

"It's a way to use an expert to get in evidence they couldn't get in directly," Mr. Marcus said.

Despite his protests, Judge Thieme allowed Dr. Urken to testify.

In a claim that startled courtroom observers, Dr. Urken suggested that the Baltimore vote count as recorded on voting machines may have been off by nearly 1 million ballots. Only about 151,000 people voted in Baltimore on Election Day, according to official returns. The city has fewer than 1 million residents.

The claim of such a gaping discrepancy highlighted the problems the Sauerbrey camp has had in relying on volunteers to compile quickly a vast amount of electoral information for the case. Lawyers for Mr. Glendening argued that the figure cited by Dr. Urken showed sloppy research by Mrs. Sauerbrey's investigators, not Election Day problems.

Judge Thieme has said he wants to conclude the case by tomorrow to leave time for a decision before Wednesday, when Mr. Glendening is scheduled to be inaugurated.

After nearly 11 hours in court yesterday, Mrs. Sauerbrey was expected to conclude her case this morning followed by several witnesses for Mr. Glendening and various state election officials.

Mrs. Sauerbrey's attorneys already are talking about taking their case into federal court should Judge Thieme rule against them. "Until he ties me to a chair, gags me and kicks me out of Maryland, it's not over," said John M. Carbone, Mrs. Sauerbrey's New Jersey-based attorney.

Mr. Carbone tried unsuccessfully to inject new constitutional issues into the case yesterday afternoon, claiming that the due process and equal protection rights of all Marylanders were violated by the failure of Baltimore election officials to make the required purges of some people from registration lists.

"It is a question of equal protection, a denial of due process that

raises to a constitutional level the misadministration of the election," Mr. Carbone said yesterday.

But Deputy Attorney General Ralph S. Tyler III said it was too late to raise new issues. "There's never been any complaint that any state or local official violated anyone's constitutional rights," he said.

Judge Thieme agreed and prevented Mr. Carbone from pursuing the argument.

While the case dragged on in the courthouse yesterday, the newly elected members of the General Assembly took their seats in the State House a few blocks away, marking the official end of Mrs. Sauerbrey's 16-year career as a state delegate.

Another expert witness yesterday appeared to make only minor points for Mrs. Sauerbrey's case.

Roger S. Pinkham, a mathematics professor from the Stevens Institute, said reports of electoral problems were much more frequent in Baltimore than in Prince George's and Montgomery counties, and the extent of such problems in the city "certainly doesn't look like chance."

But on cross-examination from a Glendening attorney, Dr. Pinkham admitted that he had found what he termed "howling" inconsistencies in some of the data compiled by the Sauerbrey camp and presented to him for analysis.

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