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Myers seeks to block early voting this year

March 22, 2006|by TAMELA BAKER

ANNAPOLIS

Changes slated for this year's elections have a Washington County delegate concerned that they're too much, too soon.

Among them is a law effective this year that allows voters to cast ballots up to five days before Election Day.

But the House Ways and Means Committee will hear a bill today by Del. LeRoy E. Myers, R-Washington/Allegany, that would delay early voting until 2008.

While Myers said he believes the state should offer early voting - eventually - he doesn't believe the state could have an early voting program in place in time for the September primary election.

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The early-voting legislation was initially approved last year, but vetoed by Gov. Robert Ehrlich. The General Assembly overrode Ehrlich's veto early in this year's session.

Myers said Tuesday that all the changes contemplated for this year's elections are causing confusion. He said he'd talked to election officials both on the state level and in Washington and Allegany counties.

"There's not one that says they're in favor of it" this year, he said.

The state Board of Elections and local boards have raised concerns about the early-voting plan or lack thereof, Myers said. He plans to tell the committee today that trying to conduct early voting this year would cause an administrative nightmare because no plan is yet in place. Questions about locations, hours and security for early ballots promote confusion, he said, and costs to local governments haven't been covered by local budgets.

Myers said the anticipated changes give state Elections Administrator Linda Lamone too much authority to decide local election questions. "Usually, a circuit court judge makes the call," Myers said. "In this case, it would allow Linda Lamone to be part of that decision-making process. That should not be her job." He said Lamone should only be responsible for implementing policy approved by the General Assembly.

Myers said he believed the motivation for Democrats pushing through the changes is that "it enables confusion if any race is contested."

This year's gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races could be particularly contentious, with Gov. Robert Ehrlich and Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, the first Republicans to hold top state positions in decades, running in those races.

"In any close election, you're gonna see the possibility of corruption and confusion," Myers said.

Delaying changes would also give the state a chance to certify controversial touch-screen voting systems and save the state the cost of installing optical-scan systems that would be needed for early voting this year, he said.

"I don't think we need the optical-scan if we don't do early voting," Myers said.

"We need to slow down, take a deep breath and do this right," he said.

House bill 1580

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