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Monday, July 24, 2006

Dems Stack the Deck in Maryland

I've been fighting this fight for about two months to no avail. I'm including two articles from the Washington Post for you to look at and post about if you have time. Here's a quick synopsis: Maryland has decided to hold early voting this year. The kicker, only in heavily Democratic districts and with no requirement for valid ID. In my opinion, you either have it everywhere or not at all and you certainly must have some form of ID or this thing will be rife with fraud. The governor vetoed the bill authorizing all of this mess but the heavily partisan legislature overrode his veto. I helped organize the petition drive mentioned in the 2nd article to refer the issue of early voting to the ballot as a referendum. This initiative failed due to, in my opinion, malfeasance by the staff at the board of elections office, especially on the part of the heavily partisan director Linda Lamone. Anyway, enough from me, here's what's on the record.

Tilting Maryland's Vote
How to cast a pall over elections -- before they even take place
Wednesday, April 5, 2006; Page A22

IN THE SANCTIFIED name of expanding the popular vote and widening access to the polls, Maryland Democrats have sacrificed fairness to partisan advantage. The Democrats, who dominate the state legislature in Annapolis, pushed through a bill allowing voting to take place for five days before Election Day -- but mostly at polling stations in Democratic strongholds.

This isn't the first time a majority in a state legislature has sought electoral advantage by ramming a brazenly partisan measure down the throat of the minority party. The justification generally comes down to, "Well, they'd do the same to us if they were in power." But no matter which party is behind such partisan mischief, the effect is the same: to subvert the faith that Americans place in the electoral system's fairness.

The procedural aspects of this bill's passage are odious enough. Before they voted, Democratic lawmakers stripped the bill of provisions that would have permitted Republicans an equal role in deciding where to place the early-polling stations and that would have required that the stations' locations be geographically central. The conference committee that wrote the bill was composed of six Democrats and zero Republicans.

The locations of many of the polling stations for early voting seem designed to mine Democratic votes, which tend to be in more heavily populated areas. In Howard County, early-voting stations were placed in heavily Democratic areas in an apparent effort to weaken the reelection prospects of freshman state Sen. Sandra B. Schrader, probably the most imperiled of Maryland's 14 Republican state senators.

Democrats enjoy a healthy advantage in voter registration and are understandably eager to recapture the state's governorship, which they lost in 2002, in this fall's elections. Over the past two years they have sought to leverage their statewide numerical advantage by enacting a set of relatively permissive elections laws under the aegis of what the party has called a "voters' bill of rights." As a result, Maryland voters will not be required to show any form of identification, and they will be able to cast provisional ballots practically anywhere in the state, regardless of their home address.

Republicans insist that these measures will open the door to electoral fraud; if fraud does mar the November ballot, the Democrats will be responsible. But they are not unfair on their face. By contrast, tilting the early-voting system toward heavily Democratic areas in strategically key jurisdictions taints the election even before it occurs. With such arrogance and abuse, the Democrats will only erode their majority in Maryland.

Petition Fails to Derail Md. Early Voting
Election Board Says Drive Backed by Ehrlich Fell Short by 138 Signatures
By Steve Vogel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 22, 2006; Page A01

A Republican-led petition drive to block legislation allowing early voting in Maryland elections for the first time this year has failed by fewer than 140 signatures, state officials said yesterday.

Democratic leaders hailed the news as a rebuke for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R).

Ehrlich has led the campaign against early voting, charging that the legislation passed by the General Assembly lacks safeguards against fraud. After his veto of the state Senate bill was overturned by the Democrat-controlled General Assembly, Ehrlich's office helped sponsor a petition drive to overturn the law by referendum.

The Maryland State Board of Elections said yesterday that petition organizers had not collected enough valid signatures for a referendum. Though opponents submitted more than 20,000 signatures, election officials were able to validate those of only 16,924 registered voters, 138 short of the 17,062 threshold for challenging the law authorizing early elections. "They did not get enough signatures to move forward," Linda Lamone, administrator for the election board, said yesterday.

From the start, the issue has been charged with politics. The ruling further inflamed partisan tension.

Democrats have charged that Ehrlich's objections to early voting represent a cynical effort to hold down voter turnout in the fall election, when the governor is expected to face a tough bid for reelection. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in the state by a nearly 2 to 1 margin.

"Ehrlich's attempt at voter suppression is based on his fear of a high voter turnout, and he should be ashamed to have spearheaded the petition," Terry Lierman, chair of the Maryland Democratic Party, said yesterday.

The head of the organization leading the petition drive, Marylanders for Fair Elections, expressed outrage at the election board's finding and questioned its legitimacy. "I'm concerned and I'm indignant, and I just don't believe that it's true," Thomas Roskelly said.

Roskelly, who was asked to run the campaign by the governor's office, said his group submitted almost 21,000 signatures and was incredulous that approximately 4,000 were not counted. "All of a sudden we're 138 signatures short," he said. Roskelly said the group would seek a recount and, failing that, might pursue a legal challenge.

"This is not over by a long shot," Roskelly said.

David Paulson, spokesman for the Maryland Democratic Party, said it was not surprising that the petition fell short of the 17,062 threshold. "Everybody knows you should submit at least one-third extra. Some are not legible, some are duplicates, some are people who don't live here," Paulson said. "They failed. They failed despite intense efforts by Governor Ehrlich."

Lamone said the tally of 16,924 voters was based on the counts submitted by boards of elections across the state.

Barring a successful challenge of the decision, registered Maryland voters will be allowed to vote starting one week early in both the Sept. 12 primary and the November general election. "Ehrlich's mean-spirited campaign to suppress the vote has failed because voters want more flexibility and opportunity to vote," Lierman said.

"We are declining at this point to comment," Henry Fawell, an Ehrlich spokesman, said yesterday.

Opponents succeeded in collecting enough signatures on a petition drive challenging a second piece of legislation, a House bill passed this year that provides much of the mechanics for early voting. Should the petition drive meet a second threshold of 52,000 signatures at the end of this month, the proposed referendum question will be placed on the November ballot.

But because that House legislation was passed on an emergency basis, it cannot be overturned by the results of a referendum until after the November election. The law "is in effect regardless of whether they are successful," Lamone said.

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