Attorneys representing Baltimore City voters, activists and several local candidates filed suit in U.S. District Court June 2 requesting that the Baltimore primary election be invalidated.
Voters United For the Integrity of Elections (VOICE) is seeking an order declaring the certification of Baltimore’s recent primary elections “null and void.” The group is requesting a new election be held as soon as possible.
C.D.Witherspoon, leader of the Maryland Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, said both the city and state bear responsibility in what he described as an “unacceptable level of irregularities” in Baltimore’s April 26 primary.
“There have been multiple issues with this (Baltimore) election board. The reason the state bears liability is because the state knows full well that there has been a string of issues with the local board,” Witherspoon said at a news conference outside of City Hall.
Catherine Pugh was named the winner of the April contest after numerous reports of irregularities at polling places and a second count of the votes by the Board of Elections. Former Mayor Sheila Dixon came in second place with a difference of about 2,500 votes between the two.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include Charlie Metz, Democratic City Council candidate who lost a close race by only 130 votes, and William Newton, Republican candidate in the 7th Congressional District who finished 45 votes behind Corrogan Vaughn. The winner of the Republican race will face Democratic incumbent Elijah Cummings in November. Dwayne Benbow is also a plaintive in the lawsuit and a former felon who was recently granted the right to vote due to the Maryland General Assembly’s passage of legislation restoring voting rights to several categories of ex-offenders .
Benbow said he and a number of other ex-offenders erroneously received letters from the Baltimore Board of Elections saying they could not vote. The Board of Elections previously stated that 35 ex-felons received notices that incorrectly said they could not vote.
Lisa Mills, a Baltimore resident who is not a plaintiff but came out to support VOICE, said the violations were discouraging to the record number of voters who showed up for early voting and on Election Day.
“This is about everybody’s vote counting. People were turned away from polling stations; offices were closed. We had one of the highest early election turnouts ever and then for every vote not to be counted? I’m outraged as a citizen.”