The circus comes to East Baltimore in the form of the democratic process
It was a process that on paper looks as easy as baking cake, yet the seven members tasked with filling the seat vacated by the death of Delegate Hattie Harrison apparently aren't very good chefs? Consistently touted and defended as a fair process, void of politics, by Baltimore City Council President Bernard 'Jack' Young on Facebook; the voters of the 45th legislative district witnessed a three-ring circus Friday evening, which pulled the cover off of Young's assertions and shined a bright light on a politically driven and broken process.
Nine candidates eventually filed their applications to fill the vacant House of Delegates seat, including three of the seven members sitting on the central committee tasked with voting on the body's eventual nominee. Yet after the candidates' interview process, it was the voting process that threw the once coveted appointment process into pure chaos. After Baltimore City State Central Committee chairman Scherod Barnes instructed the seven members on the 45th district central committee to cast their 'secret balloted' vote for one candidate, the first round of votes witnessed one of those members improperly casting a double vote – making their entire ballot null and void.
Of the six votes taken, central committee members Nina Harper and Kevin Parson each received two votes, with the third central committee member Robert Stokes receiving just one. The other vote was cast for the apparent crowd favorite, Cory McCray; who during his presentation asked his supporters to rise, and almost three-quarters of the crowd stood – which was reflective of various district community associations and their leadership. The double voted ballot was cast for both McCray and Harper, making both votes void.
Based on the tie between two longtime district residents and activists, the central committee was then asked to vote again – this time only for Parsons or Harper. Again someone voted twice making their ballot null and void, but it wasn't needed this time around, as Ms. Harper - the stalwart leader in the Oliver Community for over 30-years - received the four votes needed to receive the nod for appointment. However, the damage had been done, when not only did these elected members not follow simple instructions, but also seemed compliant in a conspiracy theory that one community member made evident about knowing who would be chosen to fill this seat over a year ago.
“I'm a school teacher and my kindergarten children can follow simple instructions better than these idiots,” said one rather pissed off district voter, who swore that she wouldn't vote for any of the seven members on the central committee come 2014. “How do you double vote on a single member ballot, twice nonetheless? Shameful!”
But that wasn't the only factor that made onlookers upset, as they were also concerned about the bylaws and the secret ballots being used in what is suppose to be an open governmental process. “How do you cast secret ballots when your elected by the people to choose their next representative,” asked Shaun Louis, an independent political analyst who sat through the entire process.
“And then, when the people asked for a roll call vote, to expose the votes of those present – compliant with Robert's Rules of Order – Chairman Barnes denied such a motion; which calls into question, to what authority does he have to have a secret election of an appointed representative – and why wasn't the committee provided with general counsel by the state's Democratic Party or the Attorney General's Office?”
After reaching out to both, receiving no response from the Maryland Democratic Party, the AG's Office stated that it is generally left up to the Party when it pertains to these types of appointments; yet, they would certainly look into and get back to this Examiner in a timely fashion.
However, some of the candidates weren't willing to take the appointment of Ms. Harper lying down; as several pointed to what they called “a tainted process that offered up someone that would most assuredly tow the party line for the Governor and current elected representatives of that district – instead of serving the will of the people?”
In fact, one onlooker 'told it all' after the selection of Ms. Harper, stating that incumbent Delegate Cheryl Glenn told her over a year ago that when Hattie gave up her seat, that Ms. Harper would be her 'anointed successor'.
Ms. Donna Harper wrote an excellent letter-to-the-editor stating her conversation with the delegate, her response to this information, what happened that night and why the voters in attendance were not satisfied with the result:
I attended the Democratic Central Committee of the 45th District's meeting to choose a successor of the late Hattie Harrison; to both support one of the nine candidates and also to see if what one legislator told me about a year ago was to come true. The legislator told me that Nina Harper was going to be the successor to Hattie Harrison. During the evening the legislator let it be known that if she said this she meant it to be an explanation of the process of succession. I must be very naive because I didn't think that would happen, but, in truth, that is exactly what happened. But not without some superb wheeling and dealing on the part of the members of the central committee.
However, three of the candidates were members of the central committee and following their presentations they then sat in their places on the committee, able to ask questions of the other candidates vying for the same seat they were. I began to calculate in my head that if each of them voted for themselves there would only be four relevant votes for others. Evidently others in attendance were thinking about the process as well, as prior to the vote, many questions were asked of the committee; like why didn't those three members running for the office recuse themselves from the committee actions? And why was this process done by secret ballot?
The chair (Scherod Barnes) repeatedly explained that everything that they were doing was according to the state constitution - as they were broadly interpreting what was written and what was not written. The first ballot was completed with no one in a majority and with one ballot invalid because two persons were voted for on it. The audience was incredulous that 7 grown people, elected to represent their interests, couldn't even vote correctly to elect a replacement candidate. On the second ballot the same thing happened. One person voted for two persons on his/her ballot and it was invalid. How would the election have turned out if those two ballots had been valid?
To say that those in attendance were incredulous and angry is an understatement. While no laws may have been broken in this shameful election process it is clear that the central committee had already decided who they wanted to win the election and everyone was in cahoots or too afraid to speak. The ethical uprightness of this committee is to be questioned, as is their respect for the intelligence of their constituency - whom they evidently think will overlook their behind the scenes actions.
In retrospect, the hard work of the candidates to prepare their presentations were exercises in futility. Every candidate was well qualified to serve but was up against the "old boys (girls) club" and had no chance to be elected. Shame on the central committee for their boldfaced cronyism! Members of the committee owe a re-vote and an apology to their constituents. The people of district 45 deserve excellent elected officials who will move us forward, not these farcical antics that do not resemble good government.
Members of the committee are: Ronald Bailey, Warren Branch, Tashea Brodgins, Donovon Brooks, Nina Harper, Kevin Parson, and Robert Stokes with Scherod Barnes acting as Chairman of the City's Central Committee
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