Glenarden absentee ballot complaints spur hearing
Candidate denies she offered to drop off, pick up ballots
A Ward 3 candidate denies allegations that she offered to drop off and pick up absentee ballots for Glenarden residents and a hearing has been scheduled for next week to investigate election complaints which, if verified, could change the results of the mayoral race and land the candidate in trouble with state law.
The meeting will be held 5 p.m. May 18 before the city's Board of Elections Chairwoman Geraldine Langford to discuss issues such as a note on Ward 3 candidate Judy Diggs' website, www.votediggs.com, that states residents can do "early voting" from April 8 to April 29. The city never established an early voting date separate from the May 2 election day.
The city's Board of Elections held a closed meeting Monday night with City Attorney Suellen Ferguson prior to the regular City Council meeting to discuss the complaints before scheduling the May 18 meeting.
On April 29, prior to the election, Ward 3 incumbent Jennifer Jenkins filed a complaint with Langford stating residents told her that Diggs offered to drop off and pick up absentee ballots for them. Diggs eventually lost to Jenkins by a count of 116 votes to 51. The night of election day, May 2, mayoral candidate Donjuan Williams, Ward 1 candidate Marsha Peeks, Ward 2 candidate Elaine Carter and Jenkins filed a complaint challenging the validity of the absentee ballots.
Diggs said in an email to The Gazette that she did not handle absentee votes during the election and the language on the website was an error.
"The person that incorporated the information on my website, may have inadvertently put the early voting language on the website," Diggs wrote.
Williams said Diggs and incumbent Mayor Gail Parker Carter ran in support of each other, and if those absentee ballots are deemed invalid it could change the outcome of his race, which he lost to Parker Carter by a count of 204 votes to 214. There were 27 absentee ballot votes cast, Langford said, but she has since ruled that one of them was invalid because she could not verify the voter registration information on it.
Parker Carter's website shows a banner listing herself; Diggs; Ward 1 winners James Herring and Carolyn Smallwood; and Celestine Wilson, one of two at-large winners, under the words "We Care."
"We lost support because Diggs and her team is making it easy," Williams said May 4. "There was no provision for early voting."
Williams was not at Monday's City Council meeting. Langford said she would not discuss any investigation into the validity of the absentee ballots until the results of the May 18 meeting.
Glenarden's city charter refers to the state code when it comes to absentee voting. According to Maryland Code Section 9-307, "Use of an agent in absentee ballot process," a qualified resident applying for an absentee ballot can choose an "agent" to pick up and deliver an absentee ballot, but the agent can't be an election candidate.
Maryland Code Section 9-312, "Penalty for offenses relating to absentee voting," states anyone who violates what is outlined in the code relating to absentee voting could face a fine up to $1,000 or two years in prison.
If all of the absentee votes were deemed invalid, Williams would have lost the election by two votes instead of 10. An investigation would be necessary to see which ones were handled correctly, he said.