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Myers says drive goes on to delay early voting

June 23, 2006|by TAMELA BAKER

HAGERSTOWN

Despite reports that a petition drive to block early voting in Maryland missed an early deadline, a local delegate vowed Thursday the fight was not over.

Del. LeRoy E. Myers, R-Washington/Allegany, attempted during this year's General Assembly to delay implementation of early voting and other changes to the state's election laws until the 2008 presidential election.

He contended that elections officials wouldn't be ready to make the changes in time for the Sept. 10 primary election, mainly because no safeguards were in place to prevent voter fraud.

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The law allows voters to cast ballots up to five days before Election Day.

Myers said from the beginning that he does not oppose early voting; he said he opposes it for this year's election because the law does not require voters to prove their identity before casting those votes, exposing the election to charges of fraud.

The bill first was approved last year, but Gov. Robert Ehrlich vetoed it. Ever since, Republicans have charged the bill was designed to stack the election against Ehrlich and Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, who is running for U.S. Senate. Democrats replied that by opposing the measure, Republicans were trying to restrict voting. The General Assembly overrode Ehrlich's veto this year.

Myers' attempt to delay the law failed, but since then, a grass-roots effort - mainly by Republicans - to petition the measure to referendum in November produced thousands of signatures throughout the state. The drive initially appeared to have surpassed the more than 17,000 signatures needed by a preliminary deadline June 1. But this week, state elections administrator Linda Lamone said the drive actually fell 138 signatures short once signatures were validated.

But Myers, who serves on the House Ways and Means subcommittee that oversees election law, noted that just last week, state elections officials had reported the deadline had been met.

Further, he said, 2,000 more had been held up at the Annapolis post office, though they were postmarked on time.

Court filings could result, Myers said.

Meanwhile, "we continue to move forward," he said. Petitioners would have to compile 52,000 signatures by June 30 to get the issue on the November ballot; Myers said he had 450 signatures to turn in today.

"And we're not done," Myers said. "We have another week."

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