Election official's charges on city purge fail scrutiny

THE BALTIMORE SUN

A Republican member of the state election board claims that Baltimore officials targeted voters in majority-white precincts for removal from city rolls last year to hurt the GOP gubernatorial candidate's chances in the November election.

But an investigation by The Sun indicates that the allegations by board member Daniel J. Earnshaw are unfounded.

Mr. Earnshaw used selective samplings from city election board records to support his charges that disproportionately high numbers of voters were removed from the rolls in some precincts. Those areas, he maintains, contain white "crossover Democrats" who in the past have voted for Republican candidates.

Yet a comprehensive, precinct-by-precinct review of election records, coupled with an analysis of U.S. Census data, shows no pattern indicating that race or voting history was a factor in determining which ineligible voters were taken off the rolls.

In fact, the so-called "purge" of voters took place in more than half of the city's 408 precincts -- black and white -- as a result of changes in legislative district boundaries required by population shifts reflected in the 1990 Census.

And some of the highest numbers of voters removed from the rolls actually were from precincts where the population is overwhelmingly black.

Nevertheless, Mr. Earnshaw continues to make his allegations, which first were reported recently in the Washington Times and repeated on television news programs and radio talk shows. At a meeting of the state election board Wednesday, a discussion of his claims turned into a shouting match between him and Chairman James W. Johnson Jr.

"The purges that were done were targeted against the candidate that the people who did this wanted to lose," said Mr. Earnshaw. "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what they were doing."

The legislative redistricting purge took place last year between April and August, during a time when the Democratic and Republican gubernatorial fields still were fluid. In fact, Parris N. Glendening did not emerge in polls as the Democratic front-runner until mid-June, and Helen Delich Bentley was considered the Republican favorite over Ellen R. Sauerbrey until the upset in the Sept. 13 primary.

Mr. Earnshaw, 34, a Harford County lawyer appointed to the state board in 1991 by former Gov. William Donald Schaefer, said his contentions about the purge were based on information provided to him by "a source" who is a "very, very high-ranking election official . . . from the other party." He declined to identify that person.

Gene M. Raynor, the state election administrator, rejected Mr. Earnshaw's contentions. He said the purging "can be logically and reasonably explained" by the required update of the city rolls related to the redrawing of legislative district lines, which were approved by the Maryland General Assembly.

In precincts where district designations change, election officials are required to send new voter cards to every registered voter. State law further requires that two attempts be made to deliver the cards by mail, but for any card returned twice by the post office as undeliverable, the voter's name is supposed to be removed from the rolls.

"The voters in those areas, under the law, must be notified of their new districts," said Mr. Raynor, a Democrat. "In so notifying these voters, there was a large return-mail delivered to the city election board, and on the basis of this return mail, the removal of these voters took place."

That process was not carried out in precincts where legislative districts and precinct boundaries remained unchanged.

Barbara E. Jackson, the Democratic city election administrator whose office removed the names from the rolls, dismissed Mr. Earnshaw's charges as "nonsense" and "absurd," echoing Mr. Raynor's explanation for the purge numbers being higher in some areas.

GOP official skeptical

The sole Republican member of the three-member Baltimore election board, Linda B. Pierson, said she did not find Mr. Earnshaw's claims credible.

"I don't believe him," Mrs. Pierson said.

She said that when first confronted with the charges by fellow Republicans, she "understood their initial concern." But after comparing new and old legislative district maps, "I could easily, easily explain all of those accusations that have been made."

Mr. Earnshaw dismisses those who doubt his conclusions.

"They're wrong," he said. "I have a right to my opinion. They're wrong, and they're going to be proven wrong."

Mr. Earnshaw's allegations are the latest in a series of claims that surfaced almost immediately after the gubernatorial election, which Mr. Glendening won over Mrs. Sauerbrey by just 5,993 votes of the more than 1.4 million cast statewide.

Mrs. Sauerbrey contested the election, alleging voter fraud. Her allegations were not proved in her failed legal challenge, which was decided in Anne Arundel Circuit Court in January.

Since then -- based on new information -- the FBI and U.S. attorney's office have initiated their own preliminary inquiry into possible election fraud in the city. But federal authorities said last week that their probe started weeks before Mr. Earnshaw's claims of racially based purging and has nothing to do with his assertions.

Election records show that about 287,000 city voters were sent new voting cards last year because they were assigned to new legislative districts, reconfigured precincts or new polling places.

Voting cards returned

Of those cards sent out, 21,389 were returned twice by the post office as undeliverable. Of that total, 12,795 names were taken off the rolls before the primary last year, election records show. The remaining 8,594 were left on the rolls because of election board workload, Ms. Jackson has said.

Like the list of voters removed from the rolls, there is no apparent pattern to the 8,594 who were left on. Records show that they are spread throughout the city's precincts -- black and white -- where legislative redistricting or precinct and polling place changes took place.

Since the general election, those names have been placed on an "inactive" voter list by election officials. Purging names from voter rolls is now prohibited by a federal law that became effective Jan. 1.

Mr. Earnshaw based his claims on a city list of all voters purged between Jan. 1 and Oct. 31 of last year. That list is a computer tally of 17,295 voters. In addition to names removed in the redistricting purge, the list includes 4,500 voters whose names were removed because officials were notified of a reason to do so, such as death or criminal conviction.

Armed with that list, Mr. Earnshaw cited three predominantly white precincts in two city wards where the purge rate was higher than other precincts in the same wards.

Specifically, he noted a 10.8 percent purge from the 8th Ward's 1st Precinct and a 8.5 percent removal rate from that ward's 2nd Precinct, both of which are in the Belair-Edison area. He also pointed to a 13.7 percent removal from the 1st Precinct of the 13th Ward, which includes parts of Hampden and Roland Park.

Mr. Earnshaw does not point out that all three precincts were drawn into new legislative districts and thus subject to a comprehensive updating of the voter rolls, while the rest of the precincts in both wards were not.

"They can say all they want about reprecincting," Mr. Earnshaw said, adding that he still sees "a major discrepancy" in the way the three precincts were handled.

Precincts backed Sauerbrey

Regardless of the purges, the 8th Ward's 1st and 2nd precincts went to Mrs. Sauerbrey. Mr. Glendening carried the remainder, which are predominantly black.

Though Mrs. Sauerbrey carried the two precincts he cited, Mr. Earnshaw contended she was nonetheless hurt by the purge. "If she would have carried it by a higher margin, that's more votes statewide," he said.

To further back his allegations of targeted removals, Mr. Earnshaw cited a high purge rate in the 1st Precinct of the 13th Ward, which Mrs. Sauerbrey did not carry.

The number of voters purged in the 1st Precinct was far higher than those removed from the ward's other 24 precincts. It is significant, however, that among those precincts with a low voter removal rate are six that are predominantly white and where Mrs. Sauerbrey did well.

Asked how this could be reconciled with his charges of targeted purging in white precincts, Mr. Earnshaw said, "They can't make it totally obvious. . . . They aren't going to do it in every precinct."

The precincts Mr. Earnshaw cited are not the areas where the largest purges took place in the city.

The highest number of voters removed from a precinct -- 290 voters -- was from the 6th Precinct of the 11th Ward, an area that makes up the heart of downtown Baltimore. The names removed from the rolls represent 21.3 percent of the total number still registered there.

More than a third of residents in the precinct are minorities, according to the census data.

The next highest of the city purges came from two precincts that are predominantly black, election and census records show.

The 4th Precinct of West Baltimore's 14th Ward -- an area that is nearly 100 percent black, according to census data -- had 250 names purged from the rolls. That represents 33.2 percent of the total number of voters still registered there.

Another West Baltimore precinct, the 13th Precinct of the 28th Ward, had 226 names purged from the rolls, representing 15.6 percent of registered voters. That precinct is 82.5 percent minority.

Those three precincts were carried by Mr. Glendening rather than Mrs. Sauerbrey. Precincts in predominantly black areas of Baltimore, which overall is 60 percent black, went overwhelmingly for Mr. Glendening -- in some cases, by margins as high as 16-1. Citywide, he took 58 percent of the vote last year.

Mr. Glendening carried the city and just two of the state's 23 counties to win the election. Of the three jurisdictions he carried, Baltimore -- which has nearly nine times as many registered Democrats as Republicans -- delivered him the highest number of votes.

Those kinds of vote margins continue to trouble Republicans, some of whom contend that something must be amiss in the Baltimore election office.

Accuser's role

Mr. Earnshaw has led the charge against Ms. Jackson, most recently referring allegations about the purge to State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli for action.

He also was the force behind a March 15 letter to Mr. Montanarelli in which the bipartisan state election board asked the prosecutor to investigate city election officials, including Ms. Jackson, for alleged offenses.

Among them is a charge -- which Ms. Jackson admitted at the Sauerbrey trial -- that she failed to purge more than 30,000 ineligible voters before the election, as required by law. Those voters should have been removed from the rolls because they had not voted in the previous five years.

The board also asked Mr. Montanarelli to look into charges that at least a dozen security keys for voting machines were unaccounted for after the polls closed in November and that about 900 envelopes in which the keys were returned to election officials were destroyed. Those problems with city voting machine security first came to light in a Jan. 9 article by The Sun.

BALTIMORE'S "PURGE"

A Republican member of the state election board, Daniel J. Earnshaw, maintains that Baltimore officials "purged" ineligible voters from the rolls at a higher rate in predominantly white precincts. This was done, he says, to hurt

In the 8th Ward, Mr. Earnshaw singles out the 1st and 2nd precincts as examples of this because they are mostly white and purging was done at a higher rate than in the ward's other 11 precincts, which are mostly black.

Election officials, however, offer an explanation. They say differences in the purge rate are the result of routine updating of the voter rolls associated with legislative redistricting.

In precincts where legislative districts were redrawn -- including the 1st and 2nd -- city officials were required to send new cards to every registered voter. For any card returned twice by the post office as undeliverable, the voter's name is supposed to be removed from the rolls.

This process was not carried out in precincts where legislative districts and other boundaries remained unchanged -- as was the case with all of the other precincts in the 8th Ward. In those precincts, a voter's name was removed from the rolls only if city officials were notified of a reason to do so, such as the voter had died or moved. As a result, there was far less purging in those districts, officials say.

In the 13th Ward, Mr. Earnshaw singles out the 1st Precinct, again because it is mostly white and purging was done at a relatively high rate. Here, too, city officials explain that more purging was done in the 1st Precinct -- and in the 5th Precinct as well -- because of legislative redistricting. Legislative districts were not changed for the ward's other 23 precincts. In those precincts -- both white and black -- far fewer voters were removed from the rolls.

8th Ward

Precinct -- * 1

% minority voters -- * 5.1

No. registered voters (At 3/21/95) -- 853

No. voters purged (1/1 - 10/31/94 -- 92

of voters purged -- 10.8%

% of vote for Sauerbrey in Nov. -- 54%

Precinct -- * 2

% minority voters -- * 9.4

No. registered voters (At 3/21/95) -- 913

No. voters purged (1/1 - 10/31/94 -- 78

of voters purged -- 8.5%

% of vote for Sauerbrey in Nov. -- 53%

Precinct -- 3

% minority voters -- 60.2

No. registered voters (At 3/21/95) 511

No. voters purged (1/1 - 10/31/94 -- 15

of voters purged -- 2.9%

% of vote for Sauerbrey in Nov. -- 22%

Precinct -- 4

% minority voters -- 98.9

No. registered voters (At 3/21/95) 472

No. voters purged (1/1 - 10/31/94 -- 7

of voters purged -- 1.5%

% of vote for Sauerbrey in Nov. -- 5%

Precinct -- 5

% minority voters -- 99.2

No. registered voters (At 3/21/95) 1,222

No. voters purged (1/1 - 10/31/94 -- 9

of voters purged -- 0.7%

% of vote for Sauerbrey in Nov. -- 5%

Precinct -- 6

% minority voters -- 98.9

No. registered voters (At 3/21/95) 1,213

No. voters purged (1/1 - 10/31/94 -- 22

of voters purged -- 1.8%

% of vote for Sauerbrey in Nov. -- 7%

Precinct -- 7

% minority voters -- 99.3

No. registered voters (At 3/21/95) 2,583

No. voters purged (1/1 - 10/31/94 -- 39

of voters purged -- 1.5%

% of vote for Sauerbrey in Nov. -- 6%

Precinct -- 8

% minority voters -- 99.7

No. registered voters (At 3/21/95) 821

No. voters purged (1/1 - 10/31/94 -- 10

of voters purged -- 1.2%

% of vote for Sauerbrey in Nov. -- 6%

Precinct -- 9

% minority voters -- 99.1

No. registered voters (At 3/21/95) 1,163

No. voters purged (1/1 - 10/31/94 -- 16

of voters purged -- 1.4%

% of vote for Sauerbrey in Nov. -- 4%

Precinct -- 10

% minority voters -- 99.2

No. registered voters (At 3/21/95) 1,540

No. voters purged (1/1 - 10/31/94 -- 29

of voters purged -- 1.9%

% of vote for Sauerbrey in Nov. -- 9%

Precinct -- 11

% minority voters -- 98.9

No. registered voters (At 3/21/95) 3,301

No. voters purged (1/1 - 10/31/94 -- 43

of voters purged -- 1.3%

% of vote for Sauerbrey in Nov. -- 5%

Precinct -- 12

% minority voters -- 99.1

No. registered voters (At 3/21/95) 777

No. voters purged (1/1 - 10/31/94 -- 9

of voters purged -- 1.2%

% of vote for Sauerbrey in Nov. -- 6%

Precinct -- 13

% minority voters -- 89.6

No. registered voters (At 3/21/95) 986

No. voters purged (1/1 - 10/31/94 -- 14

of voters purged -- 1.4%

% of vote for Sauerbrey in Nov. -- 9%

13th Ward

Precinct -- * 1

% minority voters -- * 9.2

No. registered voters (At 3/21/95) 1,513

No. voters purged (1/1 - 10/31/94 -- 207

of voters purged -- 13.7%

% of vote for Sauerbrey in Nov. -- 35%

Precinct -- 2

% minority voters -- 15.2

No. registered voters (At 3/21/95) 941

No. voters purged (1/1 - 10/31/94 -- 10

of voters purged -- 1.1%

% of vote for Sauerbrey in Nov. -- 38%

Precinct -- 3

% minority voters -- 1.4

No. registered voters (At 3/21/95) 377

No. voters purged (1/1 - 10/31/94 -- 8

of voters purged -- 2.1%

% of vote for Sauerbrey in Nov. -- 61%

Precinct -- 4

% minority voters -- 2.5

No. registered voters (At 3/21/95) 784

No. voters purged (1/1 - 10/31/94 -- 16

of voters purged -- 2.0%

% of vote for Sauerbrey in Nov. -- 50%

Precinct -- 5*

% minority voters -- 8.1

No. registered voters (At 3/21/95) 385

No. voters purged (1/1 - 10/31/94 -- 29

of voters purged -- 7.5%

% of vote for Sauerbrey in Nov. -- 55%

Precinct -- 6

% minority voters -- 98.9

No. registered voters (At 3/21/95) 513

No. voters purged (1/1 - 10/31/94 -- 11

of voters purged -- 2.1%

% of vote for Sauerbrey in Nov. -- 5%

Precinct -- 7

% minority voters -- 98.5

No. registered voters (At 3/21/95) 529

No. voters purged (1/1 - 10/31/94 -- 11

of voters purged -- 2.1%

% of vote for Sauerbrey in Nov. -- 8%

Precinct -- 8

% minority voters -- 99.8

No. registered voters (At 3/21/95) 481

No. voters purged (1/1 - 10/31/94 -- 11

of voters purged -- 2.2%

% of vote for Sauerbrey in Nov. -- 5%

Precinct -- 9

% minority voters -- 99.4

No. registered voters (At 3/21/95) 674

No. voters purged (1/1 - 10/31/94 -- 4

of voters purged -- 0.6%

% of vote for Sauerbrey in Nov. -- 7%

Precinct -- 10

% minority voters -- 93.1

No. registered voters (At 3/21/95) 466

No. voters purged (1/1 - 10/31/94 -- 9

of voters purged -- 1.9%

% of vote for Sauerbrey in Nov. -- 5%

Precinct -- 11

% minority voters -- 89.8

No. registered voters (At 3/21/95) 495

No. voters purged (1/1 - 10/31/94 -- 18

of voters purged -- 3.6%

% of vote for Sauerbrey in Nov. -- 7%

Precinct -- 12

% minority voters -- 90.3

No. registered voters (At 3/21/95) 324

No. voters purged (1/1 - 10/31/94 -- 10

of voters purged -- 3.1%

% of vote for Sauerbrey in Nov. -- 6%

Precinct -- 13

% minority voters -- 94.0

No. registered voters (At 3/21/95) 471

No. voters purged (1/1 - 10/31/94 -- 4

of voters purged -- 0.8%

% of vote for Sauerbrey in Nov. -- 9%

Precinct -- 14

% minority voters -- 95.0

No. registered voters (At 3/21/95) 439

No. voters purged (1/1 - 10/31/94 -- 7

of voters purged -- 1.6%

% of vote for Sauerbrey in Nov. -- 8%

Precinct -- 15

% minority voters -- 97.5

No. registered voters (At 3/21/95) 307

No. voters purged (1/1 - 10/31/94 -- 5

of voters purged -- 1.6%

% of vote for Sauerbrey in Nov. -- 6%

Precinct -- 16

% minority voters -- 99.2

No. registered voters (At 3/21/95) 529

No. voters purged (1/1 - 10/31/94 -- 14

of voters purged -- 2.6%

% of vote for Sauerbrey in Nov. -- 11%

Precinct -- 17

% minority voters -- 91.6

No. registered voters (At 3/21/95) 535

No. voters purged (1/1 - 10/31/94 -- 12

of voters purged -- 2.2%

% of vote for Sauerbrey in Nov. -- 11%

Precinct -- 18

% minority voters -- 84.8

No. registered voters (At 3/21/95) 583

No. voters purged (1/1 - 10/31/94 -- 8

of voters purged -- 1.4%

% of vote for Sauerbrey in Nov. -- 9%

Precinct -- 19

% minority voters -- 4.0

No. registered voters (At 3/21/95) 391

No. voters purged (1/1 - 10/31/94 -- 9

% of voters purged -- 2.3%

% of vote for Sauerbrey in Nov. -- 40%

Precinct -- 20

% minority voters -- 5.4

No. registered voters (At 3/21/95) 488

No. voters purged (1/1 - 10/31/94 -- 9

% of voters purged -- 1.8%

% of vote for Sauerbrey in Nov. -- 57%

Precinct -- 21

% minority voters -- 3.7

No. registered voters (At 3/21/95) 515

No. voters purged (1/1 - 10/31/94 -- 18

% of voters purged -- 3.5%

% of vote for Sauerbrey in Nov. -- 48%

Precinct -- 22

% minority voters -- 0.96

No. registered voters (At 3/21/95) 317

No. voters purged (1/1 - 10/31/94 -- 6

% of voters purged -- 1.9%

% of vote for Sauerbrey in Nov. -- 45%

Precinct -- 23

% minority voters -- 1.5

No. registered voters (At 3/21/95) 382

No. voters purged (1/1 - 10/31/94 -- 9

% of voters purged -- 2.4%

% of vote for Sauerbrey in Nov. -- 46%

Precinct -- 24

% minority voters -- 4.3

No. registered voters (At 3/21/95) 519

No. voters purged (1/1 - 10/31/94 -- 11

% of voters purged -- 2.1%

% of vote for Sauerbrey in Nov. -- 49%

Precinct -- 25

% minority voters -- 2.1

No. registered voters (At 3/21/95) 422

No. voters purged (1/1 - 10/31/94 -- 10

% of voters purged -- 2.4%

% of vote for Sauerbrey in Nov. -- 46%

* Cited by Republicans as example of selective purging by race and voting trend.

* Placed in new legislative districts as a result of redistricting by General Assembly.

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