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State: GOP absentee ballots are invalid

The Md. Attorney General's office says the ballots are no good because they do not call for the voter's date of birth to be list

The Md. Attorney General's office says the ballots are no good because they do not call for the voter's date of birth to be list

October 23, 2002|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

Maryland Republican Party officials sent color glossy brochures to voters statewide last week, encouraging them to "vote by mail" for the party's candidates.

The brochure included two detachable absentee ballot application forms addressed to the voter's local election board.

But the state Attorney General's Office has now ruled that the forms are not valid because they don't follow State Board of Elections regulations, which call for the voter's date of birth to be listed.

Election board officials across the state are now rushing to mail letters and official absentee ballot forms to the would-be applicants in time for the Oct. 29 deadline.

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"It's a lot of extra work for us," said Washington County Election Director Dorothy Kaetzel, whose office had received about 200 of the faulty forms as of Tuesday.

Frederick County Election Director Stuart Harvey said Tuesday that his office received 400.

Republican Party spokesman Dan Ronayne suggested it's not fair for the State Election Board to scrap the forms, potentially disenfranchising the voters who used them. While the forms did not comply with state regulations, they followed the letter of the law, he argued.

In pre-recorded phone calls to voters over the weekend, Republicans blamed Democratic Attorney General Joseph Curran and "Democrats up to the same old tricks."

Ronayne said the phone calls went out before the state Election Board agreed to attempt to contact those who used the invalid forms. At the time, the party was considering filing suit.

"We certainly hope everyone in the state has a common goal, which is a fair election," he said.

But the Maryland Democratic Party said Republicans have no one to blame but themselves.

"The bottom line here and the reason the Republicans are squawking very loudly is that they spent a lot of money on this and now they want the taxpayers of the state of Maryland to foot the bill for their mistake," Democratic spokesman David Paulson said.

Absentee ballots could figure in what is shaping up to be a very close gubernatorial election. Polls over the last month have shown Democrat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Republican Robert Ehrlich running neck and neck.

"That's why we're working as aggressively as we can to make sure every person who wants to vote for our candidate gets to do so," Ronayne said.

Paulson said areas where the Washington-area sniper has attacked may see an increase in absentee voters who are afraid to leave their homes.

Gov. Parris Glendening's office is meeting with his staff members to discuss options on getting out the vote in the wake of the attacks, although spokesman Chuck Porcari said the governor hopes no changes will be needed.

Staff writer Andrew Schotz contributed to this story.

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