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After Early Voting

With a court ruling effectively ending any chance for early voting in this year's elections, Maryland Democratis say they will focus on making sure voters have access to absentee ballots, if they can't make it to the polls election day.

The General Assembly changed the law in the last legislatives session so that absentee ballot are available "on demand." Previously, voters needed to provide a reason, such as illness or being out of the country.

"For those people who want to get out the vote among working-class people, you're going to have to focus on absentee ballots," House Majority Leader Kumar Barve said. "There are a lot of working-class people who work two jobs, and it's going to be tough to go out and vote."

The decision, coming barely two weeks before the Sept. 12 primary, could leave some confusion among voters. In Baltimore, for instance, the city elections board sent postcards to more than 300,000 people proclaiming, "For the first time in Maryland, you can vote in person before Election Day!" and providing information about Baltimore's three early voting sites.

Just as well, said one Republican consultant. "I think the defeat of this early voting proposal will help ensure against fraud in the election," said Carol Hirschburg. "This one was fraud waiting to happen," she said, adding "it was likely to benefit the party that set it up to benefit them."

House Speaker Mike Busch (D-Anne Arundel) said that early voting generally does benefit the party with more registered voters. "But I think it would have had very little impact on the outcome of this election, if you want to know the truth," he said. "It would have been something new, tried for the first time."

He called the court decision "an unfortunate turn of events."

"You live with the judges' decision, but I think in the long run, it's unfortunate for the voters."

Busch said that Maryland is "in the distinct minority" of states without some form of early voting and that early voting was even allowed in the U.S.-overseen elections in Iraq. "I don't know what makes Maryland unique," Busch said.

From staff reports

By Phyllis Jordan  |  August 28, 2006; 6:06 AM ET
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Even more important reason to get absentee ballots: Montgomery county uses an optical scanner to read the hard copy absentee ballot. It is a paper trail that Diebold lacks. We have used them since 2000. We were in Florida for both selections of Mr. Bush.

For this one we will vote early with absentee ballots that are honestly tallied.

The only use we have made of the optical voting machine was in Rockville city election. And it will be the last time. We will get absentee for city as well.

Posted by: duke | August 28, 2006 10:37 AM | Report abuse

"Maryland Democrats" are joking, right?

Being out of town for an extended period, I called the PG elections board and asked for an absentee ballot. They promised to mail an application right away, but it was postmarked about 8 days later.

If that's an indication of their efficiency, I very much doubt that they will manage to mail the actual ballot to me before the election.

Posted by: D. C. Russell | August 28, 2006 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Regarding absentee ballots... I've heard from a couple of Maryland residents who requested absentee ballots, received them and have already cast their votes.

The problem is, they voted for Tom Perez in the Attorney General race. Now that Perez has been removed from the ballot, what will become of their votes? Are they simply wasted? Will these people be able to re-vote?

- Russ Louch

Posted by: Political Yak | August 28, 2006 12:41 PM | Report abuse

"No excuse" absentee ballots...and this differs from the past how? You could request an absentee ballot and check that you "may be out of state" and get one. They never cared about that anyway. So why did we need early voting if we had absentee ballots?

And cmon Phyllis, why not mention how no other states in the union have made it ILLEGAL to ask for identification when voting. Many states with early voting REQUIRE ID before you can vote. ONLY (here's Mike Busch's "uniqueness) in MD do we make it ILLEGAL to PREVENT VOTER FRAUD.

Posted by: Bryan | August 28, 2006 5:57 PM | Report abuse

As Al Capone said, "vote early and vote often". No doubt, this was the intention in a state that's already in a choke hold by a monopolizing party. This has nothing to do with people working 2 jobs or the inability of the infinitesimal number of people who can't make it to their local polling place.

Thanks to the Courts, we at least have a chance for a fair election.

Posted by: BG from PG | August 28, 2006 6:38 PM | Report abuse

If the legislature wants to really do the right thing, they should make election day a holiday.

Posted by: Marylander | August 29, 2006 9:17 AM | Report abuse

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