Wynn's challenger says she'll sue over some votes

September 16, 2006|By Stephanie Desmon and Greg Garland | Stephanie Desmon and Greg Garland,Sun reporters

Four days after the Democratic primary, the race for the 4th Congressional District was still too close to call yesterday. But the challenger, alleging serious voting improprieties in Prince George's County, said she plans to sue to keep suspect ballots from being counted.

Donna Edwards, a civic activist and former foundation executive, trailed seven-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Albert R. Wynn by fewer than 3,000 votes. An unknown number of absentee votes and a few thousand provisional ballots remain to be counted in the district, which includes parts of Prince George's and Montgomery counties.

Edwards contended that the vote tallies from more than three dozen electronic voting machines were left "unsecured" from 8 p.m. on Election Day until 5 p.m. the next day - nearly a day after the polls closed.

"Nobody has been able to account for the whereabouts of the machines or the memory cards during the 21 hours after the polls closed," her attorney Jonathan S. Shurberg wrote to Robert Antonetti Sr., the acting administrator of the Prince George's County elections board. "What we do know is that these votes, when added to the existing vote totals ... increased Congressman Wynn's vote lead in Prince George's County by over 1,000 votes."

Voting in part of the district was disrupted Tuesday when ballot cards in Montgomery County arrived late to polling places.

In Prince George's County, preliminary vote totals show Wynn with a substantial lead in the congressional district's precincts there - more than 9,000 votes over Edwards. In Montgomery County, where Edwards is not contesting results, she holds a more than 6,000-vote lead.

Antonetti said no votes were technically missing in Edwards' race. Poll workers, he said, accidentally left some of the cards used to tally votes inside their machines, which were secured with tamper-resistant tape and under lock and key the whole time. When election officials determined that cards were missing, they went straight to the machines, opened them up and retrieved the cards, Antonetti said. There was no opportunity to interfere with votes, he said.

Edwards said she will take legal action, either in state or federal court, perhaps as early as this weekend, to ensure that whatever votes count in her race were properly safeguarded. She insisted the race is not over. "I will not rest until every vote is counted and accounted for," she said.

Wynn has not declared victory, saying he can wait until all votes are counted.

Wynn's office released a statement late yesterday saying that Edwards' desire to "throw out votes in certain jurisdictions" is "not fair."

"You can't represent people who you want to disenfranchise," the congressman's statement said. "The voters are now going to have an opportunity to see what Ms. Edwards truly thinks about them."

stephanie.desmon@baltsun.com greg.garland@baltsun.com

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