Green Party's ballot bid in Carroll to get review

State's highest court to hear Murphy case

September 27, 2002|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The Maryland Court of Appeals could decide Monday whether a Green Party candidate for Carroll County commissioner should be included on the November ballot.

The state's highest court agreed yesterday to hear the case, one day after a Carroll Circuit Court judge denied the Green Party's request for an emergency injunction that would have forced election officials to include George W. Murphy III on the ballot.

Frank M. Dunbaugh, attorney for the Green Party, said yesterday that he intended to file an appeal, but the court contacted him first.

"The courts called me and all the attorneys involved this morning, and asked us to send all the papers," Dunbaugh said. "They will rule on something Monday."

Murphy, a Sykesville resident and teacher's aide, needed 840 names or 1 percent of the county's registered voters to be included on the general election ballot. The county elections board invalidated nearly 200 of the signatures Murphy submitted, leaving him 11 short of the requirement. Dunbaugh contends many signatures were erroneously discounted.

"The board is so honed in on not including these candidates that they look for excuses not to include them," Dunbaugh said.

The board will not count signatures that are illegible or those from voters it considers inactive. Other signatures were rejected because voters did not sign with the same name they were registered under and because voters listed post office boxes instead of street addresses, elections officials have said.

"No one is disputing that there were a number of registered voters' signatures that were not counted because those people failed to comply with election laws," said Richard Titus, attorney for the elections board. "But these regulations the [Green Party] is calling trivial are legal, enforceable statutes."

Carroll Circuit Judge Michael M. Galloway said Wednesday that he sympathized with the Green Party's efforts but said that because the election board's deadline for submitting ballots for printing is Monday, he did not have time to review the signatures in question.

Murphy said he is optimistic because of the sudden turn of events.

"This is all about the sanctity of the rights of the voter, and that is an issue that will never go away," said Murphy, who ran unsuccessfully for commissioner as a Republican four years ago.

Dunbaugh said he expects the court to render an opinion quickly.

"There is no more time and no more courts to fix this," he said.

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