Use paper absentee ballots, MD gov. says

After myriad e-voting problems in primary, worried voters should just use paper, says Republican governor. Dems accuse him of playing politics with votes.

After an abysmal primary election in which electronic voting machines displayed just how buggy they can be, Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is recommending concerned voters just use paper absentee ballots, Maryland's Gazette reports.

Critics said an influx of absentee ballots would be costly and delay results in close races. Additional staffers might need to be hired and more optical scan machines, which tally absentee votes, might be needed, they said.

‘‘I just think it would put an additional strain on local elections officials,” said Frederick County Board of Elections Director Stuart Harvey. ‘‘If we change things again this close to the November election, what I’m concerned about ... is I don’t want anything to confuse the voters at this point.”

But the recommendation should just be common sense to anyone who experienced the problems or read about their scope in the papers.

‘‘When you consider the long lines at the polls, the malfunctioning electronic poll books, and the questionable performance of the voting machines itself, the governor is receptive to the idea of absentee ballots as an option,” said Henry P. Fawell, an Ehrlich aide.

‘‘Of the three suggestions that I’ve heard in the last couple of days, this would be the easiest to implement, simply because it’s a process that’s already in place,” said Marjorie Roher, the Montgomery County board of supervisor’s spokeswoman.

State Sen. Brian E. Frosh, normally a fierce critic of Ehrlich's, likes the idea but points out the governor is late to the religion of paper ballots. "He has mouthed every conceivable half-truth about the electoral process to date, and this is the only proposal he has made that is in any way constructive,” he said. Ehrlich vetoed a bill in 2005 that would have made it easier for voters to cast absentee ballots. ‘‘This is a 180-degree reversal for him,” Frosh said.


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