Early and often

May 05, 2006

There he goes again. Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is trying to undermine public confidence in Maryland's fall elections. He's repeating the claim that early voting is a "transparent attempt to commit fraud." And this time, he persuaded Comptroller William Donald Schaefer to delay a contract (involving management of the State Board of Elections' computer system) for a couple of weeks to make his point.

What a load of hanging chads. If early voting is tantamount to an act of fraud, Mr. Ehrlich better call on the FBI to investigate those 34 other states that have it (including many governed by Republicans). And why hold hostage the computer system that, among other things, allows the state to write ballots and keep track of campaign finance records? This kind of self-serving foolishness is why people have doubts about Mr. Ehrlich's maturity.

Yes, we can all agree that Democrats in the General Assembly passed early voting last year because they see political advantage in an increased voter turnout. Mr. Ehrlich countered with a veto (that didn't stick) and a referendum drive that appears doubtful, too. It's just not reasonable for him to respond to this political setback by trying to sabotage the election - which is about all that delaying the state board's management contracts can possibly accomplish.

Later this year, the Board of Public Works is slated to review a $13 million contract to replace traditional paper poll books that track the names of eligible voters with an electronic version that can better guard against potential fraud. Holding that contract hostage could have even more serious consequences - including casting doubts about whether the hostage-takers ought to be re-elected.

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