Minutes after receiving a ruling that will keep him off November’s general election ballot, Russell A. Neverdon Sr. had a new slogan for his independent campaign to become the next Baltimore City State’s Attorney: Right this wrong and write me in.
“I will fight this fight to the end,” Neverdon said outside Baltimore City Circuit Court on Tuesday afternoon.
Earlier Tuesday, a judge ruled the city’s Board of Elections last month had properly invalidated more than 1,300 signatures that were part of Neverdon’s petition to appear on the ballot. The campaign had submitted more than 5,700 signatures to the board, of which 3,099 were deemed valid; Neverdon needed 4,160 signatures to qualify for the ballot.
The ruling means only Marilyn J. Mosby, a Democrat, will appear on the general election ballot. Mosby defeated incumbent Gregg L. Bernstein in the June primary. There is no Republican candidate.
Mosby said Tuesday she had “extreme confidence” in the Board of Elections’ decisions but welcomed Neverdon’s continuing campaign as a write-in candidate.
“I would never be presumptuous or discount people. They discounted me,” she said. “I still have this obligation to turn voters out.”
Neverdon’s campaign had said it created its own voter verification system based on data provided by the city’s Board of Elections to ensure “the legitimacy of the signatures” on the petition.
During a bench trial last week, a campaign consultant testified computer software sifted through approximately 8,000 collected signatures and found only 2,500 were invalid.
But retired Judge Martin P. Welch, in the opinion issued Tuesday, said the campaign “failed to even introduce even one incorrectly rejected signature to overcome the 1,061 that it needed” to validate the petition.
Welch agreed with lawyers for the city and state Boards of Elections that election officials correctly applied the state law that governs petition signatures. The judge also rejected the Neverdon campaign’s argument that the state law violates the voting rights of Neverdon supporters.
“When a state election law imposes reasonable and non-discriminatory restrictions upon the rights of voters, the State’s important interests are generally sufficient to uphold the constitutionality of the law,” Welch wrote. “In reviewing the relevant case law, the Courts have upheld the constitutionality of the signature requirements on numerous occasions.”
The timing of Welch’s decision was significant: Wednesday is the deadline for the Board of Elections to prepare the general election ballot, and Sept. 19 is the deadline for the ballot to be mailed to military voters stationed overseas.
Neverdon, who represented himself at trial, said he plans to appeal Welch’s ruling. But for now, he said he is focused on running a “strong” general election campaign.
“We’ve taken the refs out of this and will let the people decide,” he said.
Neverdon acknowledged the long odds he faces as a write-in candidate but said voters would have an “opportunity to make history” by voting him into office.
He also said he had no regrets on his decision to run as an independent. Neverdon previously said he decided not to participate in the primary because he wanted all of the city’s residents to be able to vote for state’s attorney, not just registered Democrats in the primary.
“I listened to what the citizens of Baltimore said: We want change,” Neverdon said Tuesday.
Referring to Mosby and incumbent Gregg L. Bernstein, he added: “Someone had to be an adult and put on big pants and step out. I did what the people asked.”
David Paulson, a spokesman for the Maryland Office of the Attorney General, declined to comment on Welch’s ruling.
The case is Russell A. Neverdon Sr., et al. v. State Board of Elections, et al., 24C14004915.