SNOW HILL — Allegations of misconduct and voter suppression during last spring’s Snow Hill election have been forwarded to Maryland State Prosecutor Emmet Davitt, according to authorities.
“Anything related to the recent election in Snow Hill has been forwarded onto the state prosecutor,” said Worcester County State’s Attorney Beau Oglesby.
According to Oglesby, his office received requests to look into the most recent Snow Hill election, specifically concerning the conduct of now-Mayor Charlie Dorman. However, Oglesby confirmed that his office will not be handling any actual investigation, if one is deemed warranted. Instead, all information he has received will be forwarded to Davitt, who has jurisdiction over elections for the state.
Snow Hill resident Edward Lee has been one of the most vocal in demanding an investigation, writing a letter with a laundry list of allegations against Dorman. The main charges made by Lee include a claim that Dorman abused a religious-based charity program as a way to promote his campaign, that campaign literature was illegally placed into absentee ballots and that inappropriate voter surveillance was conducted on his behalf.
“This struggle is not about who won the election,” said Lee. “It is about how it was won.”
The first charge made by Lee is that Dorman “took control of SonRise Church and their Sharing the Harvest Ministry food distribution program” by intercepting a church flyer and adding his own campaign message. Lee further stipulates that Dorman then specifically distributed these flyers in the African-American community.
“He co-opted the church’s food program and used it for his own personal gain,” said Lee.
Secondly, Lee believes that Dorman is guilty of “stuffing ballots” by including campaign literature in absentee ballots.
“The evidence at this point strongly indicates that the law has been broken … on the state level, it’s clear that ballots were stuffed,” Lee said.
Lee accuses Snow Hill Postmaster Cynthia Miller of carrying out “covert surveillance of postal patrons involved in the election without authority,” adding that patrons were “surveyed for no good reason.”
Dorman, while he did not wish to comment on specific charges due to the current investigation, did dismiss them categorically.
“I’m pretty sure [Davitt] will find nothing illegal,” said Dorman. “When it comes back, it will prove that I did nothing wrong … just let it go through its course.”
While Lee admits the allegations he’s making are serious, he is not alone in asking for an investigation. Former Snow Hill Mayor Stephen Mathews, who do not seek re-election, confirmed that he and the town council also requested the spring election be examined by authorities.
“We asked the State’s Attorney’s Office to investigate it,” he said, adding that Oglesby has “forwarded [the case] on up.”
In his original letter, Lee also claims to have state support from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
“Also Gerald Stansbury, President of the Maryland State Conference NAACP, has written Doug Gansler, Maryland State Attorney General, calling for an investigation of ‘the allegations that African American voters were improperly targeted by the candidate,’” said Lee. “In addition Patrick Donahue, United States Postmaster General, has been called upon to investigate the local Postmaster’s involvement in the May 1, 2012 Election.”
It should be noted that this isn’t the first time Snow Hill has hit rocky shoals with an election. Similar allegations of irregularities in the election process were investigated in 2008, though the charges were eventually determined to be unfounded. Dorman was not involved in that election.
In his letter, Lee claims Snow Hill has something of a running history with election misconduct, but that efforts have been made in way of voter education in the past decade and a half. However, with the most recent election, he believes that progress is being subverted and a “good-old boy system,” centered on favoritism and unfair advantages, was employed.
Lee said his goal is to “purify the system.” It is not, stressed Lee, a political witch-hunt.
“I’m not interested in persecuting anyone. I’m not interested in making the mayor a bad guy,” he promised. “I’m interested in purifying the political process.”
Lee added that he is not calling for a recount, recall or impeachment of Dorman. He simply wants an investigation.
“That’s up to the courts,” he said of potential consequences should his allegations prove founded.
For his part, Mathews was not willing to discuss the specifics of the letter that he and the council sent to Oglesby, as the entire matter has been forwarded to Davitt for evaluation. While he hopes the air will be cleared through an investigation, Mathews doesn’t expect a quick resolution.
“I wouldn’t count on anything this year,” he said.
Town election laws will be further examined in a public session on Sept. 25.