A definite maybe

August 17, 2006

The ruling by an Anne Arundel County circuit judge that rejected the Democratic-controlled General Assembly's early ballot plan has been hailed as a victory for Republicans. And although he was not directly involved in the lawsuit, few people have been more opposed to making it easier for Marylanders to vote than has Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. So, was Judge Ronald A. Silkworth's decision a victory for the governor? The answer is yes, maybe and no.

Yes. In the short run, the ruling vindicates the governor's efforts to sabotage the plan. He vetoed a bill establishing early voting and later vetoed another bill that provided guidelines for the plan. Democrats overrode the vetoes. If the primary election were held today, no one could take advantage of early voting.

Maybe. But we'll have to wait for the Court of Appeals to decide. The state's highest court may not share Judge Silkworth's narrow interpretation of the state constitution. The whole argument could boil down to how the judges define such words as "election," "held" and "entitled."

No. Mr. Ehrlich's diatribe against early balloting is that it invites fraud. Judge Silkworth avoided giving credence to that or any other political commentary when he made his ruling. The governor has never fully explained his position, but implicit is the charge that Democrats are untrustworthy and likely to vote multiple times, probably for his opponent. But there's no evidence that fraud has occurred in any of the more than 30 states that have adopted early voting.

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