By David Noss
A new Maryland law allows voters to vote by absentee ballot without specifying a reason. In previous years, only people who were unable to go to the polls could vote in this manner.
Many prominent political figures this year have recommended that all Maryland voters vote by Absentee Ballot for varying reasons. First Lady Laura Bush and RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman, both speaking on behalf of the Republican National Committee (RNC), recommend voting by Absentee Ballot as a means to vote early.
The Maryland Republican Party sent out two mailers both of which contained absentee ballot applications. One mailer included a statement carrying Bob Ehrlichs name which said: I encourage all Marylanders to consider voting by absentee ballot to avoid the potential for long lines and inconvenience on Election Day. Vote absentee to ensure your vote is counted.
Both gubernatorial candidates Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich and Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley have expressed concerns about the Diebold Electronic Voting Machines that will be used in Maryland this year. Both campaigns have used recorded telephone messages to encourage voters to use absentee ballots. Ehrlich is also on record as to his belief that electronic voting machines are susceptible to reliability issues and fraud.
Ehrlich is not alone in his belief. A Florida-based law firm, in concert with Robert Kennedy, Jr., has filed a qui tam lawsuit against electronic voting systems manufacturers based on information from industry insiders. Qui tam is a legal process dating back to Civil War that allows private citizens to file whistle-blower cases against companies that are believed to have defrauded the government. The process allows the U.S. Justice Department to review the case and decide if they wish to join in the suit or allow the private citizens to proceed on their own.
Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan this month also joined in with the recommendation to vote by Absentee Ballot. Duncans recommendation is based on problems that were experienced with the voting systems on Primary Election Day in Montgomery County.
The absentee voting process is simple. First, a registered voter submits a one-page absentee ballot application to his local County Election Board by mail or Fax. If mailed, the application must be received by the local County Election Board no later than 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 31. If the application is faxed, it must be received no later than 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 31.
Once the absentee ballot is received in the return mail, it can be completed at the voters leisure. If it is mailed back before Election Day on Nov. 7, it must bear a postmark verifying that fact, and be received from the postal service or private mail carrier by 10 a.m. on November 17, 2006. If it is not mailed back before Nov. 7, the voter must ensure that the County Board of Elections receives it no later than 8:00 p.m. on Nov. 7meaning that it would have to be hand delivered to them.
Due to the late date, those wishing to submit an application this year would be well advised to either FAX or hand deliver the application.
Applications can be downloaded from http://www.elections.state.md.us/pdf/2006_Absentee_Ballot_Application.pdf .
The address and FAX numbers for the local County Board of Elections can be found at http://www.elections.state.md.us/about/county_boards.html. The application form also contains this information.
More information about the Absentee Ballot process can be found at http://www.elections.state.md.us/voting/absentee.html .