Suit says jailed vot­ers are de­nied their rights

Baltimore Sun - - MARYLAND - By Mered­ith Cohn mered­ith.cohn@balt­sun.com

A watch­dog group filed a law­suit Fri­day against the city and state boards of elec­tion for fail­ing to ac­com­mo­date vot­ing for peo­ple who are in­car­cer­ated but not con­victed of a crime.

The group, Vot­ers for the In­tegrity of City Elec­tions, or VOICE, es­ti­mates that 1,100 peo­ple are await­ing trial in state-run cor­rec­tional fa­cil­i­ties in the city who are reg­is­tered to vote and an­other 700 are el­i­gi­ble to vote but not reg­is­tered. There are per­haps thousands more in county fa­cil­i­ties, said the group, though the law­suit would not ap­ply to them.

The suit, filed in Bal­ti­more Cir­cuit Court, con­tends that th­ese in­car­cer­ated peo­ple are legally en­ti­tled to vote, but there is no pol­icy in place to al­low elec­tion of­fi­cials into the fa­cil­i­ties or to train cor­rec­tion of­fi­cials to han­dle elec­tions du­ties.

“Just be­cause they are be­hind bars they don’t lose their con­sti­tu­tional right to reg­is­ter and vote,” said Has­san Gior­dano, a plain­tiff and or­ga­nizer for VOICE, which formed after the pri­mary elec­tions this year in re­sponse to what the group said were ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in the han­dling of bal­lots.

VOICE filed a law­suit call­ing for a re­run of the pri­mary elec­tion, but a fed­eral judge threw the case out ear­lier this month, con­clud­ing in part that the plain­tiffs waited too long to file the com­plaint.

The Bal­ti­more City Board of Elec­tions did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

“Once we re­ceive the suit, we will re­view and de­ter­mine how best to re­spond,” said a spokes­woman for the state at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice, which rep­re­sents the State Board of Elec­tions.

Donna Dun­can, as­sis­tant deputy for elec­tion pol­icy with the state board, noted that the dead­line to reg­is­ter to vote was Oct. 18.

But J. Wyn­dal Gor­don, the at­tor­ney who filed the suit on be­half of VOICE, said that res­i­dents are al­lowed same-day regis­tra­tion dur­ing the early-vot­ing pe­riod, which be­gan Oct. 27.

Gor­don ac­knowl­edged dur­ing a news con­fer­ence Fri­day that time is short be­fore the elec­tion, Nov. 8, but ar­gued that it would be pos­si­ble to train vol­un­teers and send them to the cor­rec­tional fa­cil­i­ties in Bal­ti­more quickly.

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