Cheatham claims win in NAACP vote

Election was last week for local branch president

December 17, 2004|By Doug Donovan | Doug Donovan,SUN STAFF

The challenger in the race for president of the NAACP's Baltimore branch declared yesterday that he had won the election held last Friday, which has been criticized this week by members upset that it was taking nearly a week to finalize results.

People who participated in the vote count at the NAACP's national headquarters in Northwest Baltimore on Wednesday said Marvin "Doc" Cheatham defeated three-term incumbent G.I. Johnson 214-136.

Cheatham said he thought he had won. Johnson said yesterday that he had not heard the official results and that he had not determined whether he would challenge them if he loses. National group officials did not return calls for comment yesterday.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in yesterday's editions of The Sun about elections by the NAACP's Baltimore branch incorrectly stated that President-elect Marvin "Doc" Cheatham did not field a slate of candidates for the group's 24-member executive committee. In fact, Cheatham said yesterday, he had fielded nine candidates, all of whom were elected to the committee. A 10th victorious candidate was supported by both Cheatham and G.I. Johnson, the defeated incumbent. The national civil rights organization, which oversaw the branch elections, must confirm the results before they are official.
The Sun regrets the error.

Last month, the national office of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People delayed the Baltimore branch's election and took it over after determining that branch procedures had not been followed.

Local branch members criticized the national office this week because five days had passed since the election without a winner being declared. They also raised concerns that the group's membership list was out of date, which forced many voters to cast provisional ballots. The memberships of voters casting such ballots must be verified before the votes can be counted.

Sources who participated in the vote count said nearly 165 were made by provisional ballot, mostly because members' names did not appear on lists or because of challenges by Johnson's poll workers.

Those sources, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal by the national group, said yesterday that the voting was delayed because the national organization was tallying votes for more than 30 positions up for election.

Cheatham's slate of candidates won six of the local branch's seven executive offices, he said. The exception was the position of assistant treasurer, for which his team did not field a candidate.

Cheatham did not field a slate of candidates for the 24 positions on the group's executive committee. Those reportedly were won by Johnson supporters.

"I think there should be a balance," said Cheatham, an elections specialist and community activist who said he deliberately did not field executive committee candidates so that balance could be achieved.

Baltimore Circuit Court Clerk Frank M. Conaway Sr., a Cheatham supporter, said he was pleased with the results of the election.

"He's got to turn this group around," Conaway said. "It's got to do more than it's been doing."

Kenneth L. Webster, a former state delegate, said Cheatham will bring a new perspective to the job.

"I think he'll do a good job with some fresh ideas," Webster said.

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