- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 3, 2002

The Maryland State Prosecutor's Office has warned the state Democratic Party to stop an effort to recruit paid workers to get out the vote on Election Day, an outlawed practice known as paying "walking around money" and once common in state politics.
State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli met with lawyers from the State Elections Board and Bruce L. Marcus, an attorney for the state Democratic Party, yesterday to determine which paid Election Day activities are permissible under law.
Democratic officials were awaiting the outcome of those discussions last evening. They initiated the discussions after learning Friday that Mr. Montanarelli had threatened prosecution if the party paid walking-around money, which was banned in Maryland in the 1970s.
Mr. Marcus told The Washington Times yesterday that the party has circulated fliers offering people $75 to get out the vote Tuesday in Prince George's County. He said paying for get-out-the-vote activities is "perfectly legal."
Mr. Marcus said the party planned to pay Election Day workers throughout the state. However, fliers offering workers $75 or $110 have turned up mostly in Prince George's County and Baltimore, where the Democratic Party plans a vigorous effort to help gubernatorial nominee Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.
Mr. Montanarelli, who was appointed state prosecutor by Democratic Gov. Harry Hughes in 1984, became involved after Republican gubernatorial nominee Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s campaign informed his office of the distribution of fliers for payments for Election Day workers, the Baltimore Sun reported yesterday.
"We are calling them and telling them they can't do it, and if they do it, they will be prosecuted," Mr. Montanarelli told the newspaper.
Mr. Montanarelli also threatened to shut down a training course for get-out-the-vote workers today at a Baltimore high school, but a Democratic Party worker said yesterday that the training might proceed as scheduled.
Maryland prohibits paying walking-around money for such Election Day work as distributing campaign literature, promoting candidates, blocking access to polls, electioneering and canvassing.
David Paulson, spokesman for the Maryland Democratic Party's statewide campaign, said the prohibition on canvassing votes does not apply because the workers would not be advocating a choice nor preference for candidates.
But Gene Raynor, a Baltimore Democrat who served as the state election administrator for 12 years and election administrator in Baltimore for 30 years, said, "The law is that they cannot pay workers for Election Day."
Mr. Raynor is supporting Mr. Ehrlich, but he said that does not influence his interpretation of election law. "As a former election official, I know the law," he said.
Mr. Paulson said the state Democratic Party was not responsible for a flier in Baltimore promising Election Day workers $110, $10 more than permitted under federal election law. He blamed an "overzealous supporter" for the flier, which did not name an authorizing organization.
"Our plan was always to do this legally under the law and follow that law very, very carefully," Mr. Paulson said.
Townsend campaign spokesman Peter Hamm said the campaign never planned to pay Election Day workers. Questions about the Democratic Party's get-out-the-vote activities were part of the Republicans' strategy to suppress voter turnout in poor areas, he said.
"We will not tolerate efforts by the Republicans that are geared toward discouraging poor people from getting out to vote. That's what these allegations are all about," Mr. Hamm said. "Republicans are trying to scare poor people out of voting, and we will not tolerate it."
Mr. Hamm declined to explain his remarks further.
Ehrlich campaign spokeswoman Shareese N. DeLeaver dismissed her counterpart's assertion.
"It is a completely ridiculous charge because they got caught with their hand in the cookie jar," Miss DeLeaver said. "The law is very clear here, and, in effect, they have been advertising to break the law."

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