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Eye on Annapolis

The Daily Record's Maryland state government blog

Judge rejects Ervin’s request to revise primary ballots

Valarie Ervin, center, speaks outside the Anne Arundel County Circuit courthouse Monday, accompanied by Marisol Johnson, left, and her attorney, Mariana Cordier. (The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears)

Valarie Ervin, center, speaks outside the Anne Arundel County Circuit courthouse Monday, accompanied by running mate Marisol Johnson, left, and her attorney, Mariana Cordier. (The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears)

ANNAPOLIS — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Valerie Ervin said she is weighing her options, including an appeal to the state’s highest court, after an Anne Arundel County Circuit Court judge denied her requests to have the state reprint or alter millions of ballots in time for the June 26 primary election.

Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Judge William C. Mulford II Monday said he was forced to find in favor of the state and Elections Administrator Linda Lamone. Reprinting millions of ballots or altering them with stickers containing the names of Ervin and her running mate, Marisol Johnson, would be too time-consuming or run the risk of jamming machines.

“I just can’t imagine turning this election upside down,” Mulford said, explaining his ruling after a 90-minute hearing.

Ervin sought the changes after she replaced Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Kevin B. Kamenetz as a candidate following his sudden death last month. Ervin previously had been a lieutenant governor candidate running with Kamenetz.

The state said it was too late to reprint ballots but that officials would take other steps so voters would know Ervin had replaced Kamenetz.

Speaking after the hearing, Mariana Cordier, Ervin’s attorney, said all options remain on the table but that it was too soon to say publicly if there would be an appeal. She noted that time is running out, with early voting starting in 10 days.

“I believe the judge did a good job in explaining why he wasn’t able to do what I believe he really wanted to do,” Ervin told reporters outside the courtroom. “I still believe that the voters lost today. I believe that the mitigation for putting a sign in the voting booths does not go far enough.”

Ervin said voters will ultimately be confused.

Ervin filed suit late last week to force the state board of elections to include her name and Johnson’s on the ballot following the death of Kamenetz on May 10.

Mulford, in explaining his ruling, said Ervin’s suit was not timely, that she had waited seven days to make her decision to replace Kamenetz at the top of the ticket and another 11 days contemplating and then filing a lawsuit.

At the same time, elections officials were determining that it was too late to order a reprinting of ballots. Instead, the board released a list of more than two dozen actions it planned to take to inform voters of the change including posting notices at polling places and in polling booths as well as on its websites and social media accounts and having staff on hand to read notices to voters who call asking how to vote for Ervin.

Ervin and her attorney said the actions weren’t enough and violated the candidate’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

“Linda Lamone wants to leave us as a footnote,” said Johnson, speaking of the state elections director. “A footnote in this election, a footnote in history and a footnote in Maryland.”

Mulford pointed to a case from earlier this year in which the Court of Appeals ruled in April that it was too late to remove convicted state Sen. Nathaniel. T. Oaks’ name from the ballot.

He additionally ruled that Lamone had not acted in an arbitrary or capricious manner when she decided that it was too late to reprint ballots and that using stickers, an option allowed for by law, was untested and likely to cause problems with optical scanners that count the votes.

Still, Mulford said he sympathized with Ervin.

“Miss Ervin, I find myself some days sitting, wishing I could do things that I can’t.” said Mulford, speaking to the candidate directly from the bench.

In your case, I’d love to order a reprinting. I’d love to order stickers,” Mulford said. “I just don’t see how I can do it.”

Mulford said Ervin would not suffer irreparable harm if the ballots are not reprinted or altered and elections officials instead implement their 25-point plan to inform voters of Johnson’s candidacy.

Mulford said such an order “would create chaos” with voters.

“There would be greater harm if I granted this, to the public, than there would to Miss Ervin,” Mulford said. “The public interest does not support the requested relief.”

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