Prince George's County

Democrat Ballot Quandary in Prince George’s to Go Unresolved a Bit Longer

A decision on proposed resolution to ensure Democrats in Prince George’s County are only endorsed in the general election will wait at least another month.

The county’s Democratic Central Committee discussed the topic for nearly two hours Tuesday at the FOP Lodge in Upper Marlboro.

According to the one-page document, any sample ballots available to voters even marked “official Democratic ballot are not issued, approved or endorsed by” the central committee.

However, the nearly 40 people who spoke said the one-page declaration doesn’t go far enough.

“I see there is a lot of crookedness going on with the system and it’s kind of disturbing to me,” said Joseph Tolbert III of Capitol Heights, a returning citizen who volunteered at the polls during June 26 primary. “At one time, I broke the law. Now I’m trying to do the right thing. I really need you all to do the right thing.”

The meeting slightly resembled two sessions that last more than three hours at the lodge last month filled with some tension and disagreement on how Democrats should handle primary elections.

Wala Blegay, a lawyer who ran unsuccessfully for state delegate in the 25th legislative district, led a petition to request the county’s committee outlaw candidates from using the word “official” on campaign literature in primary elections.

In addition, opponents of the legislation say novice candidates received an unfair advantage against incumbents who coincide with state and county leaders to utilize their name on various paraphernalia.

The main official ballot voters receive come from the county’s Board of Elections.

During the June 26 primary, some voters saw Faye Martin Howell, treasure for the central committee, distribute literature to voters on behalf of candidates. Howell acknowledged the error in judgment and apologized at last month’s meeting.

As of Tuesday, more than 700 signatures have been collected along with correspondence sent to state Democratic Party Chairwoman Kathleen Matthews to remove the word “official” from campaign documents.

Blegay and community activists formed “Our Prince George’s” to push for democracy and increase transparency.

It presented a list of recommendations to the committee to incorporate into its bylaws, including:

• Enforcing punitive measures against candidates who issue misleading ballots with possible legal action.
• Moving committee meetings to a location near public transportation such as Metro station.
• Hosting town halls to educate voters about the difference between a primary and general election.

Cheryl Landis, the committee chairwoman, said she didn’t receive the information until Tuesday, another reason for the committee to review those recommendations and conduct more research to discuss to the topic at 7 p.m. Sept. 19.

“This is a sensitive subject with a lot of moving pieces,” she said. “It’s important that as we begin to move forward … but it’s important to work with our community members.”

Some longtime Democrats such as County Executive Rushern L. Baker III has said if a person registers as a Democrat, then he or she “is an official Democrat.”

Residents who spoke Tuesday disagree and said “official” on campaign literature deceives voters.

“As a candidate, I was robbed,” said LaTasha Ward, who lost in a crowded 24th legislative district race for state delegate. “People were counting on me. If I’m going to be a lawmaker, I can’t be a lawbreaker.”

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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