2 Candidates Question Vote In Pr. George's

"The integrity of the election is at stake," said Donna Edwards. Her legal complaint will focus on the security of voting machines that contained voting cards and weren't given to the Board of Elections until late Wednesday. (By Matt Houston -- Associated Press)
By Ovetta Wiggins, Eric Rich and Hamil R. Harris
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, September 16, 2006

Congressional candidate Donna Edwards announced plans yesterday to file a lawsuit over apparent voting irregularities in Tuesday's primary election in Prince George's County, while defeated county executive challenger Rushern L. Baker III demanded an independent investigation of the process.

The separate announcements signaled that Tuesday's voting, a flawed process by many accounts, may not conclude the close primary contests for a seat in Congress and the county executive's office. The election itself was "horrendous," the Prince George's elections administrator said yesterday. And the victorious Democratic county executive candidate, incumbent Jack B. Johnson, said it warranted investigation.

"The integrity of the election is at stake," said Edwards, who ran against Rep. Albert R. Wynn in the 4th District Democratic primary and is waiting for the race to be decided when provisional ballots are counted next week in Montgomery and Prince George's counties.

Jonathan S. Shurberg, a lawyer working with Edwards, said they will ask a judge to take possession of voting machine memory cards in two, possibly three, precincts in Chillum. The request will be made either in Prince George's Circuit Court in Upper Marlboro or U.S. District Court in Greenbelt over the next several days.

Edwards said her legal complaint will focus on the security of voting machines that contained voting cards and were not delivered to the county Board of Elections until late Wednesday. "When we read reports about how easy it is to hack into these machines, there has to be concern," Edwards said.

Wynn lashed out at her over the decision to sue, accusing her of "trying to throw out votes in certain jurisdictions."

Chuck Perry, a lawyer who advised Baker's campaign, said at a news conference yesterday that there is "ample evidence" to warrant an investigation.

Widespread problems occurred throughout the county, Perry said: Numerous polling places did not open as required at 7 a.m. Computers misidentified the party affiliation of voters. And voting machines failed to electronically transmit data to the county's central office.

"We're not doing this for the campaign," Perry said. "We're doing this as a duty. Voters have been disenfranchised."

A spokesman for Johnson, who had called Tuesday's voting process "abysmal," said the county executive agrees that there should be an inquiry.

"We join Mr. Baker in his request . . . to find out what happened and avoid problems like this in the future," said the spokesman, Jim Keary.

Electronic voting machine malfunctions were reported across the region Tuesday. Machines froze, access cards stopped working and computerized voter lists crashed. The glitches renewed fears about the vulnerability of electronic machines used in the electoral process.

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