Absentee leadership

September 24, 2006

Just when it appeared Maryland's voting problems were on the mend, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. chimes in with the extraordinarily unhelpful suggestion that voters fill out absentee ballots instead of going to the polls on Nov. 7. Is he serious? He and his aides seem to differ on whether this is a call for action or an "option" to discuss. But let's set the record straight: Absentee ballots are fine for convenience's sake, but the more reliable, accurate, tamper-resistant and appropriate method is to cast one's ballot at the polls.

Democrats claim that Mr. Ehrlich is trying to suppress turnout this fall by confusing voters about the integrity of the election system. And certainly it's easy to see the hypocrisy of a governor who vetoed legislation to make absentee ballots more readily available suddenly becoming their chief promoter. But the bottom line is this: The primary election revealed legitimate problems. Maryland needs leadership right now, not an attempt to capitalize on these unfortunate circumstances for political advantage.

The most troubling failings of primary Election Day can be traced to human error and a software glitch in the electronic voter check-in system. There is adequate time to repair both - and local and state elections officials appear ready and able to get it done. Make no mistake, the voting machines performed well, as they have in the last two elections in this state. Perhaps they can be made even better someday with the addition of a verifiable paper trail, but weeks before the election is not the time for that speculation.

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