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Maryland judge rules against candidate’s ballot lawsuit

In this file photo, Valerie Ervin, as a Maryland gubernatorial candidate, tells supporters "we're not done" after a judge denied her request to change the primary ballots to reflect that she is now running for governor, not lieutenant governor. Ervin decided to take the place of Kevin Kamenetz at the top of the ticket after he died suddenly. (WTOP/Kate Ryan)

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A judge has ruled against a candidate in Maryland’s governor’s race who wants the ballot changed to reflect she is now running for governor, not lieutenant governor.

Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge William Mulford made the ruling Monday in a lawsuit filed by Valerie Ervin, a Democrat who is running in a crowded primary.

Ervin decided to take the place of Kevin Kamenetz at the top of the ticket after he died suddenly last month.

But elections officials argued the ballot can’t be changed because there isn’t time enough before the June 26 primary. They planned instead to post notices about Kamenetz’s death and tell voters Ervin is running in his place.

Mulford told Ervin he’s sympathetic, but that the State Board of Elections’ actions after Kamenetz’ death and their decision to not reprint the ballots were “reasonable.” He said election officials were neither “arbitrary” nor “capricious” as Ervin’s attorney had alleged.

Instead, Mulford said the state took reasonable measures after Kamenetz died to determine how best to move forward. The judge cited Maryland State Board of Elections Administrator Linda Lamone’s outreach to local boards of elections.

He noted the response from 13 of the state’s 24 jurisdictions saying they would not be able to carry out testing election equipment in time for the start of early voting or the primary if new ballots were to be printed.

Ervin’s attorney, Marianne Cordier, pressed Lamone on why the state couldn’t use “uncertified” ballot paper to reprint the ballots. Lamone explained that the vendor contracted by the state to provide paper indicated it’s specific to the state’s optical scanning voting machines.

When making his ruling, Mulford dismissed the proposal by Ervin’s team that a different source of paper could work. The judge said it was reasonable for Lamone to steer clear of using untested paper in the state’s voting machines.

“I cannot imagine the havoc in this state if she used non-certified paper and we had a glitch,” Mulford said.

He said the board of elections’ actions were “not unlawful in any way.”

At this late date, Mulford said he doesn’t think ordering the state to reprint the ballots would work; instead, he sees it as risking chaos. “I just can’t imagine turning this election upside down,” he told Ervin’s attorney.

But still, he wished Ervin well as he made his ruling, saying, “Good luck to you.”

WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report. 

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