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Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidate Valerie Ervin threatens legal action over ballots

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Valerie Ervin has sent a letter to state elections officials threatening legal action if ballots are not reprinted for the June primary to show her name in place of her deceased running mate, Kevin Kamenetz.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Valerie Ervin has sent a letter to state elections officials threatening legal action if ballots are not reprinted for the June primary to show her name in place of her deceased running mate, Kevin Kamenetz.(Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Valerie Ervin has sent a letter to state elections officials threatening legal action if ballots are not reprinted for the June primary to show her name in place of her deceased previous running mate, Kevin Kamenetz.

In a letter sent to the Maryland State Board of Elections on Sunday, an attorney for Ervin also suggested a different solution: affix stickers over Kamenetz’s name that would show Ervin’s name instead.

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Kamenetz was one of the leading contenders in the Democratic governor’s race when he died of sudden cardiac arrest on May 10. Ervin, a former Montgomery County councilwoman, was his lieutenant governor running mate and decided to take his place at the top of the ticket, as is allowed by state law. She picked Marisol Johnson, a former Baltimore County school board member, to be her candidate for lieutenant governor.

State elections officials have said it is too late to reprint the ballots and on Friday declared that notices would be posted in polling sites telling voters that Ervin had taken Kamenetz’s place and any votes for Kamenetz would be counted for Ervin.

There's many reasons why state elections officials say they can't reprint the ballots for the upcoming primary election to reflect the candidacy of Valerie Ervin. But there's one big one: There's only a single paper mill in the country that makes the special paper for ballots.

Elections officials said Tuesday there were logistical barriers to Ervin’s suggestion that stickers be affixed to the approximately 1.5 million ballots printed for Maryland Democrats.

“That’s a lot of stickers,” said Donna J. Duncan, spokesperson for the Maryland Board of Elections.

In addition to the labor-intensive process of adding stickers by hand, “the voting system would not accomodate them,” Duncan said.

Paper ballots are fed into optical scanning machines and stickers could easily get caught in the rollers or scanners on election night as poll workers tabulate results, she said.

Ervin’s team says the stakes are too high not to find a better solution.

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“Failure to reprint the ballot will result in prejudice to Ms. Ervin and Ms. Johnson and will result in the disenfranchisement and suppression of Maryland voters,” wrote Ervin’s attorney, Mariana C. Cordier.

Cordier included supportive letters from fellow Democratic candidate Alec Ross and Montgomery County Council President Hans Riemer and Vice President Nancy Navarro.

Duncan said the board was reviewing the Ervin campaign’s letter.

Ervin is among seven major Democratic candidates vying in the June 26 primary election for the party’s nomination to challenge Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in November. The others are Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, former NAACP president Ben Jealous, attorney Jim Shea, state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr., former Michelle Obama policy aide Krish Vignarajah and Ross, an author and entrepreneur.

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