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Judge makes right call on early-voting statutes

August 15, 2006

In a victory for the preservation of the integrity of the electoral process, an Anne Arundel County judge on Friday overturned Maryland's early-voting laws.

Circuit Court Judge Ronald Silkworth stayed his ruling to provide time for an appeal to the Maryland Court of Appeals.

But to overturn it, the state's highest court would have to ignore Judge Silkworth's citing of the Maryland Constitution, which says that voters "shall" cast ballots in their local elections district on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. That sounds pretty doggone definite to us.

Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich has said that early voting, which is available in 30 other states, was an attempt by Democrats to provide a partisan advantage.

The Democrats argue that early voting is not much different than an absentee ballot, so the procedure should be allowed.

But the fact that there is now a no-excuse procedure in place for obtaining an absentee ballot is an argument against early voting. If voters who must work or be out of state on Election Day can't be bothered to request a ballot, how thoughtful will their choices be?

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Ehrlich has said he is willing to work with the legislature after the election to implement early voting.

But legislative leaders have shown few signs that they want to work in a bipartisan way for the state's citizens.

If they were truly public-spirited, they would have approved slot-machine gambling at the state's horse tracks.

In Pennsylvania - another state with a governor of one party and a legislature dominated by another - the two sides recently passed a plan to use slots money to provide property-tax relief.

The last time a Democratic governor was in Maryland's State House, he joined forces with his fellow Democrats to pass a big boost in school funding without identifying a source for those funds.

What they did, in effect, was to claim credit for the education funding and leave the question of how to pay for it to someone else.

Think about that the next time that Maryland's legislative leaders say their only priority is what's good for the citizens.

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