Task force says board should pick election chief Proposal calls for end of gubernatorial choice

November 14, 1997|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

The head of the Maryland election board would no longer be a political appointee under a proposal being advanced by a legislative task force.

Under current law, the governor appoints the head of the state election office to a six-year term. Gov. Parris N. Glendening named Linda Lamone to the post this year to succeed Gene M. Raynor, the longtime elections chief.

The task force suggests that the five-member State Administrative Board of Election Laws hire an executive director. To give the position more political independence, the task force would require that four of the five members agree before an executive director could be replaced.

"The board would hire a professional with experience in the field rather than having it be a patronage, gubernatorial appointed position," said Del. Joseph M. Getty, a Carroll County Republican who serves on the task force.

In other recommendations, the panel calls for:

Staggering the end-dates of the terms to be served by the members of the election board, who are appointed by the governor.

Making it easier for third-party candidates to get their names on state ballots.

Allowing would-be voters to register up to three weeks before an election, as opposed to the current five weeks.

The proposals will go to the General Assembly for consideration when it convenes in January for its annual 90-day session.

The task force is the second to look at Maryland's election system since the controversial 1994 gubernatorial election. Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey filed a lawsuit that year to challenge her narrow loss to Glendening, alleging widespread fraud.

jTC Her challenge was dismissed, but it prompted scrutiny of the system.

The General Assembly has enacted some key changes proposed by the first election task force -- to streamline the absentee ballot process and to require computerization of campaign finance records.

The first panel also recommended that all jurisdictions move to modern voting systems from the old lever-operated devices, something Baltimore recently decided to do.

But other recommendations of the first panel have not been enacted.

It suggested that the state end a system in which counties have their election offices run by political appointees and adopt a statewide system free of patronage.

Pub Date: 11/14/97

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