Senate Republicans accused a State Board of Elections officer yesterday of providing information to Democrats to bolster their case for overturning the governor's vetoes on voting bills.
Democrats called the charge an example of partisan politics.
Sen. Alan H. Kittleman, who represents parts of Carroll and Howard counties, blamed the director of candidacy and campaign finance at the elections board for offering "talking points" to a member of Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller's staff.
Kittleman said an e-mail sent by Ross Goldstein to Miller staffer Timothy Perry offers support for an early-voting bill vetoed by the governor.
"This is not factual evidence; these are talking points," he said. "I'm telling you it's inappropriate."
Goldstein defended his e-mails yesterday, saying they were an example of information he often offers members of the legislature when asked.
"I routinely provide information to members of the General Assembly and their staff as requested, and I have done so consistently without regard to party affiliation," he said.
Miller called the comments by Republicans an unfair attack and said Perry and Goldstein acted impartially.
"This is Washington inner-Beltway partisan politics come to Annapolis," said Miller. "They are trying to bring Jack Abramoff problems here. They are trying to tarnish an innocent staff member."
The complaints were made during a Senate committee briefing that was supposed to center on voter verification systems for the state's touch-screen voting machines. The discussion became dominated by partisan back-and-forth over the state's new early-voting procedure adopted by the Assembly in legislation last year.
Republicans have charged that early voting will help Democratic turnout and increase the risk of a fraudulent election. Democrats have countered that early voting has been implemented elsewhere with much benefit and without harm.
After the briefing, Republicans offered copies of the e-mails to reporters. The exchange took place Jan. 11, a day after a bipartisan commission named by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. issued a report that recommended upholding his vetoes of three election bills. Perry asked Goldstein whether the elections board had a "rebuttal" to the commission's findings.
Goldstein responded with an attached 1 1/2 - page document outlining arguments counter to the commission's recommendations.
Kittleman said the documents offer positions that contradict the State Board of Election's later comments that early voting would invite fraud. Senate Minority Whip Andrew P. Harris, who represents parts of Baltimore and Harford counties, said he is considering asking the state prosecutor to investigate the issue.