Md.'s early voting experiment begins Friday
Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), black lawmakers and the state's chapter of the NAACP Tuesday urged residents to turn out for Maryland's first experiment with early voting. The six days beginning on Friday amount to a test run for November that could disproportionately help Democrats if as expected they outspend Republicans in get-out-the-vote and other canvassing efforts in the run up to the general election.
Congresswoman Donna F. Edwards (D) and Baltimore Sen. Catherine E. Pugh (D), chair of the state's Legislative Black Caucus, said the week of early voting means residents "have no excuse" not to cast their ballots. James Elbridge, an Annapolis lobbyist for the NAACP said the process gives Maryland's poor and working-class a better chance to have their voice heard by allowing them to "schedule" voting around the needs of work and family.
"It's for everybody and we're encouraging not just the black community but the Hispanic community and everybody to turn out and take advantage of this," Elbridge said.
Pugh said the early voting could have an important impact on the state's primaries. "People always tell me they plan to wait and vote for their candidate in the general election and I tell them 'they won't be there if you don't vote for them in the primary.'"
Gov. O'Malley may reap the biggest benefit in November, however. He is not only expected to receive a boost from a highly organized effort by Maryland's Democratic Party to capitalize on early voting, but also could use the issue to draw attention to former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s (R) opposition to early voting, which is now popular in more than 30 states.
Maryland's Democratically-controlled legislature pushed hard to enact early voting laws in 2005, but Ehrlich and other Republican lawmakers fought the effort, describing it as an invitation to voter fraud.
In 2006, the legislature passed an early voting law over Ehrlich's objections. The law was later struck down by the courts as unconstitutional. The General Assembly then agreed to a referendum on a constitutional amendment that would authorize the legislature to pass a law allowing qualified voters to cast ballots up to two weeks before an election.
This week, Ehrlich released a YouTube video saying that even though he still views early voting as "a solution in search of a problem," he would live with it and encouraged supporters to "take advantage."
"This year presents a terrific opportunity for taxpayers, for small business people to recapture a sense of self in Annapolis. We want to empower ourselves, we want to go down there and challenge that monopoly," Ehrlich said. "This is our opportunity, obviously, beginning September 3rd with early voting."
Leaders of the state's Democratic and Republican parties are expected to appear together at an event Thursday to promote early voting.
Ehrlich faces political newcomer Brian Murphy who picked up the surprise endorsement of Sarah Palin.
O'Malley faces no serious primary challenge. He and Lt. Gov Anthony G. Brown plan to cast their ballots on Friday, the first day of early voting.
With the exception of Sunday, Sept. 5, early voting centers will be open in each county in Maryland from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. from Friday, Sept. 3 through Thursday, Sept. 9.
Aaron C. Davis
August 31, 2010; 3:42 PM ET
Categories: 2010 Elections
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