Sample Ballots in Pr. George's Misidentify Candidates

By Ernesto Londono
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 7, 2006; 4:18 PM

Inaccurate sample ballots describing Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Senate candidate Michael S. Steele as Democrats were handed out to voters in at least four polling sites in Prince George's County this morning.

The ballots were distributed by people who said they arrived by buses this morning from Pennsylvania and Delaware.

Erik Markle, one of the people handing out literature for Ehrlich, who is seeking reelection, and Steele, the current lieutenant governor who is campaigning to replace retiring Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D), said he was recruited at a homeless shelter in Philadelphia.

After a two-hour bus ride to Maryland, Markle said the workers were greeted early this morning by first lady Kendel Ehrlich, who thanked them as they were outfitted in T-shirts and hats with the logo for Ehrlich's reelection campaign. Nearly all of those recruited, Markle said, are poor and black. Workers traveled to Maryland in at least seven large buses.

Ehrlich said he wasn't aware of the hiring of workers from out-of-town.

"If folks are here from out of town that's fine with me. That's what the Democrats have always done. It's legal and it's what the Democrats have done forever. This is a story?

"If we've finally caught up with the Democrats that's fine," he added. "People asked me about ballots and other stuff. That's not my job. I've got other things to do."

Calls to Steele's campaign were not immediately returned.

The Ehrlich and Steele campaigns yesterday acknowledged sending out an election-eve flier, sporting pictures of Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson, his predecessor Wayne K. Curry and former NAACP president Kweisi Mfume. The mailer, declaring itself an "official voter guide" and criticized by Democrats, suggested the three Democrats backed Ehrlich and Steele. Curry has endorsed Steele; none has endorsed Ehrlich.

Democrats were quick to criticize the distribution today of the inaccurate sample ballots.

"I think it's pretty low that Ehrlich and Steele would print up a fake ballot and bus in unemployed people and exploit them," Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, the Democratic candidate for governor, said this morning as he greeted voters as a polling site in Greenbelt. "It doesn't get much lower than that."

Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D), who is running against Steele, called the fliers "fraudulent" and said he believed they might work in Democrats' favor by angering voters and encouraging more to get to the polls. "I think it speaks to a lack of integrity of the people who would put out something like this to try to mislead voters," said Cardin. "It has the Ehrlich-Steele authority. If they put this out, they should be ashamed of themselves."

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