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The Tentacle


October 29, 2008

Vote “NO” on Early Voting

Kevin E. Dayhoff

On Election Day November 4, there are two statewide questions on the ballot to amend the Maryland constitutional. I will be voting NO on both questions.

 

Question 1 would amend the state constitution to allow early voting in Maryland and Question 2 will amend the Maryland Constitution to allow slots.

 

Let’s take a look at Question 1. This was placed on the ballot as a result of the passage of Senate Bill 1 during the 2007 session of the Maryland General Assembly.

 

Question 1, if passed, would amend Section 1 and Section 3 of Article I – Elective Franchise – of the Maryland Constitution to authorize the enactment of legislation to:

 

(1) Allow any qualified voter who chooses to do so to vote by absentee ballot.

 

(2) Allow qualified voters to vote at polling places in or outside the voters’ election districts or wards or, during the two weeks immediately preceding an election, on no more than 10 other days prior to election day.

 

Section 2 of Question 1 is a recipe for widespread voter fraud in a state with a rich history of voting irregularities.

 

A large portion of the problem with early voting is that many voters in the state of Maryland have lost faith and confidence in the ability of the Maryland General Assembly to facilitate fair elections in Maryland.

 

It is that lack of confidence that has caused many Marylanders to be concerned with exactly what legislation the General Assembly will pass if it were to be allowed by the Maryland Constitution to pass “vote early and vote often” laws in a one party state like, well – Zimbabwe.

 

How quickly we forget the widespread voting problems in the Maryland primary elections September 12, 2006. A September 14, 2006, article in The Baltimore Sun implored: “Equipment was missing.  Poll workers were absent. Voting machines crashed. Votes were misplaced.

 

“…an unprecedented number of balloting problems piled up one atop another in Tuesday's primary, preventing untold numbers of voters from casting their ballots, leaving candidates waiting more than 14 hours after the polls closed to learn the outcome of key races, and casting an embarrassing national spotlight on the state's elections.”

 

In my September 20, 2006, column for TheTentacle.com, I wrote: “Anecdotes and published accounts abound with reports of voters coming to the polls and leaving without an opportunity to vote. No, we’re not talking about a developing nation in which free elections are a new phenomenon.

 

“The conduct of Maryland’s primary elections on September 12th, 2006 is a national disgrace…  May we all now rejoice that on August 11, Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Judge Ronald Silkworth ruled early voting unconstitutional?

 

“If Maryland had this much trouble with a one-day election, can you only imagine what it would have been like to have had voters casting their ballots for a full five days?”

 

If you will recall, the Maryland General Assembly passed an early voting initiative in the 2006 session. Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. vetoed it and the legislature overrode his veto.

 

When the law was subjected to a series of court challenges, the Maryland Court of Appeals ultimately rejected the plan in August 2006 as unconstitutional, affirming a Circuit Court ruling that the Maryland Constitution specifically limits elections in Maryland to one day, the first Tuesday in November.

 

Undeterred, the Democrats introduced Senate Bill #1 in the 2007 session to place a constitutional question on the ballot to allow for early voting. The bill passed overwhelmingly.

 

There are a number of reasons to reject early voting in Maryland above and beyond a widespread distrust of the actions of the Maryland General Assembly.

 

One of the main concerns about early voting in Maryland harkens back to basic questions about voter registration in a state that reportedly facilitates undocumented immigrants to easily obtain a Maryland driver’s license.

 

In a Baltimore Examiner article on September 17, Len Lazarick drove the point home: “Kittleman (Maryland Sen. Allan Kittleman (R., Howard/Carroll) is particularly concerned that Maryland does not require proof of legal residence to get a driver’s license and those getting a license are also given voter registration forms.”

 

This is exacerbated by the fact that the General Assembly refuses to pass a law requiring a voter to present a valid identification card when they vote.

 

People like Senator Kittleman have raised concerns that not requiring proof of identification is an invitation for widespread fraud.

 

The final argument against early voting – as if yet another reason was needed – is one of common sense. All the information necessary to make an informed and responsible voting decision is often not available until the final days before Election Day.

 

This was put forth by political scientist Dr. Tom Schaller in a column he wrote in The Baltimore Sun on October 9: “…  I'm wary about early voting, and my concern has nothing to do with partisanship. It's simply this: The election isn't over two weeks before it's over.

 

“Because the messages and actions of candidates and parties are not complete, voting early seems fundamentally undemocratic – or, at the very least, dangerously non-deliberative. Early voters would also be making decisions without the benefit of any media reports, exposes, and candidate profiles that are published in the final days of the election.”

 

Free and fair elections are the most basic building blocks of our democracy and one of the most important government responsibilities to the citizens it serves.

 

We must demand that Maryland restore faith and confidence in the integrity of our election process before we allow the legislature to tinker with the process.

 

Voting “NO” to early voting will help preserve a cherished, sacred right to choose our elected leaders without even the hint of impropriety.

 

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster: E-mail him at: kdayhoff@carr.org

 



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