Ehrlich chastises state on military voting request
Former Maryland governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) took aim Thursday at the state's decision to seek a waiver from a new federal law that requires mailing absentee ballots to overseas military personnel at least 45 days before an election, a measure meant to ensure those votes are counted.
Flanked by several military veterans and using the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis as a backdrop, Ehrlich called the waiver request "pitiful," "embarrassing," "disgraceful" and disrespectful of soldiers from Maryland who are now "crawling through caves in Afghanistan."
"We shouldn't have to be here today," said Ehrlich, who is seeking to win his job back from Gov. Martin O'Malley (D). "Maybe we can embarrass the O'Malley campaign into doing the right thing."
The state's waiver application makes its case with dispassionate math. There are only 48 days between Maryland's September primaries and its November general election, according to a letter to federal officials from the Maryland State Board of Elections. The state's primary results do not become official until 35 days before the general election, and the general election ballot is not approved until 28 days before the election.
"I, as Maryland's chief election official, have determined that the state is unable to meet the 45-day mailing requirement for the 2010 General Election due to an undue hardship," says the letter from Linda Lamone, the state's elections administrator, which also details steps the state is taking to make it easier for overseas military personnel to vote.
O'Malley campaign manager Tom Russell said that other states with September primaries are also seeking waivers from the federal law -- which he said would require moving the primary date to comply.
"Governor O'Malley always stands behind our men and women in uniform, and will protect their ability to have their voices heard in this and every election," Russell said.
Russell said he also found it "strange to see Bob Ehrlich try to make an issue of voting rights, after his legendary dirty tricks four years ago sought to disenfranchise Marylanders for his own political gain."
Russell said he was referring in part to glossy fliers handed out on Election Day in predominantly African-American precincts. Under the headline "Democratic Sample Ballot" were boxes checked in red for Ehrlich and then-U.S. Senate candidate Michael S. Steele, who were not identified as Republicans.
Among the military veterans who joined Ehrlich at Thursday's event were his father and George W. Owings III, who served as veterans affairs secretary when Ehrlich was governor. Owings, a former state delegate from Southern Maryland, announced a bid this year to challenge O'Malley in the Democratic primary but backed out citing health problems.
Ehrlich also brushed aside a question from a reporter at the event about the decision of former Alaska governor Sarah Palin to endorse his GOP rival, Brian Murphy. Ehrlich called the endorsement "not terribly relevant to anything."
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