Maryland Early Voting Shot Down; Ruling Upheld by Highest Court in the State

2006 was slated to be the first year for early voting in the state of Maryland. Maryland would have joined 35 other states who now offer their citizens early voting options. Early voting would have permitted people to vote on Tuesday through Saturday of the week preceding both the primary and the general elections. In June, Maryland Senate President Mike Miller spoke in favor of early voting. “The important aspect of early voting is that working men and women can actually vote on Saturday,” Miller said. “They don't have to take off work on Tuesday to vote.”

According to the Baltimore Sun today, “Lawyers one of whom has ties to the Republican Party filed a lawsuit to overturn the practice, arguing in part that the state constitution specifies that voting be held on one day, not several On August 11, 2006, Judge Silkworth of the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court made the initial ruling that early voting was unconstitutional. This ruling was upheld today by the Maryland Court of Appeals the highest court in the state. Proponents of the measure will now have to consider an amendment to the state’s Constitution in order to facilitate early voting.

Governor Ehrlich (R) was a strong opponent of early voting
vetoing both bills that sought to authorize it. The General Assembly subsequently overturned both vetoes. In June 2006, a letter was mailed to citizens by “Marylanders for Fair Elections” and signed by Ehrlich. In the letter he made the claim that, “Maryland's Liberals are trying to stack-the-deck in their quest to regain the Governor's office and insulate their positions of power in the State Legislature.” He also stated that early voting is, “a situation ripe for fraud.” The letter was part of a petition drive to undo early voting that ultimately failed.

Congressman Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD) today released the following statement in response to the Maryland Court of Appeals ruling.

While I respect the Court of Appeals' ruling with regard to early voting, I disagree with it.

We should be doing everything in our power to facilitate voting in our state and nation. Instead, this makes exercising the franchise more difficult.

Nearly half of all states use some form of early voting, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, including the state of Texas, among the most Republican-leaning states in the union. It has proven to be a secure and convenient option for eligible voters who for whatever reason cannot vote on Election Day.

Unfortunately, Maryland voters will be deprived of this option in November.

Maryland State Senator Roy Dyson (D-29), a strong proponent for early voting, could not be reached for comment prior to publication.


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