The election race for Baltimore City State's Attorney is back on this week, as Russell A. Neverdon pledged to go to court to overturn the election board's decision not to put him on the ballot against Marilyn Mosby, who defeated incumbent Gregg Bernstein in the Democratic primary.
Neverdon needed 4,160 voters to sign a petition putting him on the November ballot. He says he had more than 4,300. But the city Board of Elections says he had only about 3,100 valid signatures.
Why the discrepancy?
Most of the rejected signatures fell to something called the "name standard." That's when a person signs and writes their name differently than they did on their original voter application.
"So Joan A. Williams registered [to vote] 20 years ago, but she signs her name legally as Joan Williams and they reject that," Neverdon says. "We are challenging the constitutionality of the application, or the standard in and of itself."
Neverdon says he's going to fight in court, maybe today, no later than Monday. He says the board has 10 days to respond after that, but even if his challenge is bogged down in the court system, Neverdon is still running. "On Nov. 4 people should have a choice," he says. "It may end up being a write-in campaign."
On Aug. 15, Mosby's campaign announced that she would be running unopposed in the general election. In a press release she thanked Neverdon for "his efforts in assuring that the Democratic process has played itself out." Neverdon says the Mosby campaign learned the Board of Elections rejected his signatures before he did. "It was announced on a radio show between 6 and 10 a.m.," he says. "And I did not get information until noon."
Neverdon says Armstead Jones, the election board's director, told him he gave both candidates all updates to be "transparent." Jones did not return City Paper's phone calls for three days.
The campaign submitted about 5,700 signatures for validation, says Desmond Stinnie, a contractor who checked the work of the petition gatherers before delivering it to the election board on Aug. 4. He says at least 4,300 of them were definitely valid, and he matched them with the voter roll and delivered a numbered guide to the election board. But the board then applied what appear to be very exacting rules to the petitions. "There was a circulator who didn't put a phone number on the bottom of the page," Stinnie says. "All those signatures got knocked out. We had one who didn't put the date on some pages. All those signatures got knocked out."
In all, only 3,099 of Neverdon's signatures were validated. The board rejected 738 for failing to comply with the "name standard." Another 250 were thrown out because of "circulator issue" on the page where the signature appeared.
Stinnie says the board even rejected the signature of his wife. "I know she is a valid, registered Baltimore voter," he says.