Indicted election worker says he didn't know of law False voting trial to begin Tuesday

March 03, 1996|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

One of the seven Baltimore City Election Board employees charged with false voting said yesterday that he wasn't aware he had broken state election laws when he cast his vote in the 1994 gubernatorial election in Baltimore while living in Baltimore County.

"I've never been in trouble in my life," said Joseph P. Pizza, 72, a technician in the election board's warehouse who repairs voting machines and prepares them for elections. Mr. Pizza, who has worked at the election board for a year, lives in Pikesville.

He and six other city election board employees were charged by Maryland's state prosecutor with one count each of false voting. The prosecutor has been investigating voting irregularities since the contested 1994 gubernatorial election, in which Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey lost a close vote to Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a Democrat.

Those charged include Christopher Jackson, the son of city election Administrator Barbara E. Jackson; Samuel McAfee, who in charge of the election board's warehouse; and Marie Rogers, who is a sister of state election Administrator Gene Raynor.

Neither Ms. Jackson nor any of the other defendants could be reached yesterday.

State Special Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli said no other charges relating to voter irregularities have been lodged as a result of his office's investigation into the contested election.

He said the workload of his seven-member staff affected the length of time between the start of the investigation and the filing of charges against city election board employees. "We're a very small office," Mr. Montanarelli said. "We have other priorities."

The other defendants are Terri Marcewski, who oversees absentee ballots; office worker Hakima Shaulis; and warehouse employee John Budka. Most of the defendants are scheduled to stand trial Tuesday in the District Court on Wabash Ave.

False voting is a misdemeanor punishable by up to five years imprisonment and a $2,500 fine.

Mrs. Sauerbrey, whose allegations of voting irregularities in the gubernatorial election led to the state prosecutor's investigation, said she felt "vindicated" by the charges against the city election board employees and called for their immediate dismissals.

"These are people who know what the law is and are charged with upholding the law. How can anybody have any confidence in them to carry out a fair and honest election process?" she said.

Complaints about false voting or investigations of it are infrequent, Mr. Montanarelli said.

Jack Schwartz, an assistant state attorney general for opinions and advice, said he has heard occasional reports of voters who live in one jurisdiction and vote in another, but couldn't say if this violation of state law is widespread.

"I don't know if anyone has ever done anything like a scientific study looking at the prevalence of this practice," he said.

Mr. Schwartz said it is not a violation of state law for a voter to cast a ballot at a precinct within his jurisdiction of residence, even though he may not be registered at that particular precinct.

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