Vote against Question 1
Maryland voters are focused on the presidential race and on ballot Question No. 2, the constitutional amendment legalizing slots. No one is focused on ballot Question No. 1, the constitutional amendment removing some long held safeguards from our elections process.
Under current state law we vote on a single day, Election Day; we vote at a single place, our home polling place; and we vote in person (unless we are absent or unable to vote). In the name of convenience and expanding voter participation, Question 1 removes each of these safeguards as follows:
Instead of making voters stand in long Election Day lines let's open the polls before Election Day, too, so people can cast their ballots over a six- or seven-day period. Sounds great until you look at the details.
First, the cost is enormous. In this budget-cutting era which essential public services will be sacrificed so election judges can watch a trickle of voters cast early ballots?
Second, no one has thought out the logistics. On Election Day, we close schools and public buildings to provide polling places. Are we going to close schools all week for early voting? And where are we going to find the judges and administrators to man the polls? If we can't find enough personnel for one day, where are we going to find enough for a week?
Third, the state legislature's answer is to limit the number of early voting venues to one per every small county and two or three per every big county. This opens the door to political mischief such as locating the few polling places in heavily Democratic precincts or on African-American college campuses.
Fourth, early voting also opens the door to outright fraud. Under our current system our votes are secured and counted on a single evening. Over a seven-day period who is going to guard and count the votes? The potential for tampering is troubling.
Fifth, in the political soap opera of election campaigns there's a lot to be said for sticking around for the last act. Early voters may wish they waited should a mind-changing revelation emerge in the closing days of an election.
By the way, every study everywhere that early voting is used shows that the number of voters does not increase. Instead, the same number of voters simply vote over a longer period of time.
So we're left with the convenience rationale — avoiding those long lines — as the sole reason for early voting. Considering the many problems early voting raises, maybe waiting in line, like you do for concert tickets or cheaper gas, isn't so bad.
Each Maryland voter is assigned a specific polling place, usually the one nearest your home, and that's where you must vote. Sometimes people show up at the wrong polling place because they've moved or are confused. In such cases they cast a provisional paper ballot, which is held separately and then checked against that voter's home polling place to guard against double voting.
But if you live in Baltimore and simply show up to vote in Bethesda because you feel like it, your ballot won't be accepted.
However, if Question 1 passes you can vote anywhere in Maryland you wish. Yes, the technology exists to double check against double voting. But to me, the cost and administrative burden on already strained elections officials isn't worth whatever benefit "provisional voting" provides. If you know you're going to be elsewhere in the state on Election Day, think ahead and get an absentee ballot.
This is the one that alarms me the most. Under current law, a voter must individually apply for an absentee ballot and can only vote absentee if they are absent or unable to vote in person.
Question 1 allows absentee ballots to be handed out like candy. Instead of each voter applying individually, anyone can pick up an armful of ballots and head off to the nearest nursing home, unemployment line or skid row.
Sounds farfetched? Well consider the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), an activist group that's been indicted and convicted for voter registration fraud around the nation. ACORN is active in Maryland, too.
By lifting the absentee ballot safeguards we invite ACORN or similar cheaters to merge phony voter registrations with phony absentee ballots into a type of fraud that's almost impossible to detect. There's no way to catch a registered non-existent voter who votes with a mailed-in absentee ballot.
America's democratic system, like its financial system, depends on public confidence. Please don't let the reckless deregulation that's befallen our financial system spread to our elections system as well.
Blair Lee is CEO of the Lee Development Group in Silver Spring and a regular commentator for WBAL radio. His column appears Fridays in The Gazette. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.