Why is it that Gov. Parris Glendening failed to name a task force to recommend changes in the state's election laws until his seventh month in office? In his State of the State speech in January he committed his administration to such an undertaking. The delay is inexcusable.
It's no secret that Maryland's election system needs a thorough review and revamping following last year's controversial election for governor. But while he took his time, the governor has put together an excellent panel, led by George Beall, the former U.S. attorney from a prominent Republican family. The inclusion of Marie Garber, a former state and local elections board chief who is a national expert on the subject, is also a good move.
The group must work quickly. Mr. Glendening's long delay means a rushed schedule of meetings and hearings. Recommendations to the governor and General Assembly are due Dec. 31.
There are plenty of issues to discuss. Last year's governor's race ended in charges of voting irregularities. Maryland lacks a unified, statewide election system. It has a decentralized network of 24 disparate election operations. Control from the state board in Annapolis is so weak the local boards sometimes disregard directives.
Mr. Beall said the task force plans to focus on "the process of registration and voting and to look at ways in which the whole system can be improved and updated. We must make the system of elections consistent throughout the entire state." That should be his prime goal.
Every jurisdiction should have the same election process and compatible voting machines that can be coordinated through a central office in Annapolis. In today's high-tech world, such a unified system is entirely possible at a reasonable price.
The task force will benefit from the governor's earlier selection this month of an entirely new state elections board filled with members well versed in the arcane detail of voting laws. There need not be any finger-pointing by the task force, since the new state board is as committed as the Beall group to creating an improved and tamper-proof system.
This effort should not be partisan. Too often in the past nine months, Republican backers of the losing candidate for governor, Ellen R. Sauerbrey, have used their complaints to pummel Mr. Glendening. That may be good politics, but it is bad government. Now is the moment to get on with making the changes that will give Maryland an efficient and coordinated election system.