Commission Recommends Sustaining Ehrlich Election Law Vetoes - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Commission Recommends Sustaining Ehrlich Election Law Vetoes


ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP)- A commission appointed by Gov. Robert Ehrlich recommended Tuesday that the legislature sustain the Republican governor's vetoes of four election bills passed last year by the Democratic-controlled General Assembly.

Three of the bills were intended to increase voter turnout by making it easier for Marylanders to cast ballots in elections beginning with September primary. The fourth bill called for an independent study of the state's electronic voting machines.

The Governor's Commission on the Administration of Election Laws said the proposed law isn't needed because the state has already commissioned two studies.

Democratic leaders were not swayed by the commission's findings and may seek to override the vetoes of the three voter access bills.

House Speaker Michael Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said they were not consulted when the commission was appointed.

"He never asked for any input from us," Busch said. "He has a group that was handpicked say that we don't need to override the vetoes."

The members of the commission were not appointed until the end of October, and Miller said the report "was probably written before it started."

Henry Fawell, an Ehrlich spokesman, said the commission is made up "of extremely knowledgeable people from across the political spectrum who bring a world of insight to this issue."

Legislative leaders may not agree with the report, "but the collective reputations of the members are beyond reproach," he said.

The three bills dealing with voter access would allow voting from Tuesday through Saturday the week before elections at a limited number of polling places, permit anyone to vote by absentee ballot for any reason and allow people whose names are not on voter rolls to use provisional ballots anywhere in the state instead of just their own precincts.

Ehrlich criticized the legislature for passing bills he said would make Maryland elections subject to voter fraud, a charge Miller and Busch said is inaccurate.

Miller said 30 states permit early voting and several allow anyone to use absentee ballots.

"The governor wants to continue to put hurdles in front of voters," Busch said.

Based on testimony from election officials, the commission said it had serious reservations about the burden election officials would face implementing the early voting system by the September primary. The commission voted unanimously to recommend upholding the veto and suggested creating a task force to recommend methods to allow early voting by the 2008 election.

The commission's report said allowing Marylanders to use absentee ballots even if they could vote in their precincts on election day would create more opportunities for fraud.

It expressed similar concerns about expanding the use of provisional ballots, which were mandated by federal law to ensure that voters whose names are incorrectly left off lists of registered voters can cast ballots.


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