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Maryland Dems Push Early Voting, Rev Up Obama Vols

Rosalind Helderman

Top Maryland Democrats, including Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, U.S. Rep. Donna F. Edwards and Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson, joined at Sen. Barack Obama's Prince George's headquarters today to urge Maryland voters to approve a constitutional amendment that would allow early voting in the state.

Question 1 on Tuesday's ballot will ask voters to allow the General Assembly to adopt procedure to allow voting on 10 days in the two weeks before the first Tuesday in November. If approved, Maryland would join 36 other states that allow early voting.

The political leaders, who also included State Sen. David C. Harrington, Sen. C. Anthony Muse and Del. Barbara Frush, predicted lengthy lines at the polls in Prince George's on Tuesday. Some estimates indicate as many as 130,000 more voters could cast ballots Tuesday than did in Prince George's four years ago. Many county polling stations have seen lengthy lines in past elections, including waiting times that have extended well after polls close at 8 p.m.

"Voters should have the opportunity to vote when it's convenient," Cardin said. "We lose voters every year who intend to vote but have to leave the voting line because of how long it is."

Johnson recalled visiting a Prince George's polling place at 6 p.m. on Election Day in 2006 to find hundreds of voters still waiting in line in the freezing rain.

"I know we lost quite a number of voters that day," Johnson said. "I know they would have voted much earlier had we given them the opportunity to vote."

To ease lines, Johnson said he three weeks ago authorized the county to spend $900,000 to buy 300 more e-poll machines, used to check-in voters arriving at polls.

Before holding the early voting news conference, the leaders visited with a group of several dozen Obama volunteers, attempting to pump them up as they gathered to make calls for the presidential campaign.

"This is our time--Tuesday is our day!" Cardin told the group. "But we can't let up!"

Asked by a volunteer whether Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) might attempt to hold polls open past 8 p.m. to accomodate more voters, Cardin said that he believes O'Malley is now "looking" at his options on the issue. Polls in Maryland can be kept open only by court order, but Cardin said he believes O'Malley is examining whether to ask courts to order polls to stay open later.

By Rosalind Helderman  |  October 30, 2008; 2:18 PM ET
Categories:  2008 Elections , Prince George's County , Rosalind Helderman  
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