Senate president pushes bill to allow early voting

General Assembly

February 25, 2005|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,SUN STAFF

Hoping to make it easier for Marylanders to get to the polls, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller is pushing a bill that would allow voting up to eight days before Election Day.

The proposal, which received a Senate committee hearing yesterday, would require county election offices to set up a limited number of polling places for early voting.

But it drew concerns from some senators and local officials about who would pay the increased administrative costs and how the voting machines would be kept secure for more than a week.

Miller said 23 states have early voting and that the benefits outweigh any technical difficulties.

"A lot of the problems we have on Election Day, especially long lines and people leaving and not voting, can be alleviated by early voting," Miller said.

But Michael Sanderson, the legislative affairs director of the Maryland Association of Counties, said MACO opposes the bill, which he said would increase costs for counties and would create accountability problems because voters would not be required to vote in their home precincts.

"If I show up at a polling place near work in the morning, what happens if I show up at another early-voting facility near my home at night?" he said.

State Elections Administrator Linda H. Lamone, who endorsed the bill, said the state would start any such program slowly and would create systems to ensure accurate and secure balloting. Voting machines are delivered to polling places before Election Day, so some of the security procedures that would be needed already are in place, Lamone said.

Lu Pierson, voter service chairwoman for the Maryland League of Women Voters, said the league favors limited early voting because it would encourage greater participation in elections.

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