- The Washington Times - Friday, November 1, 2002

Scores of Maryland voters are in jeopardy of losing their vote in Tuesday's election after Democrat-appointed election officials rejected more than 10,000 Republican absentee-ballot applications and delayed notifying the voters.
Those absentee ballots could decide the tight governor's race between Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Democrat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.
"We are trying to get our arms around this situation and see how widespread this problem is," said Dan Ronayne, spokesman for the Maryland Republican Party's statewide campaign.
Mr. Ronayne said Republicans feels like victims of the Democratic establishment in Maryland.
"We are receiving reports that are very troubling that people are not being notified," he said.
The Republican Party prepared legal action against the election board when the application form printed and distributed by the party was rejected Oct. 19. Party officials acquiesced when the election board stated in an Oct. 22 memorandum that voters would be notified in a timely manner.
Mr. Ronayne declined to comment on whether Republican officials were reconsidering court action. However, he said the Democrat-appointed election officials and the Attorney General's Office were clearly acting in a partisan spirit.
Jonathan Horn, 20, a Montgomery County resident attending Yale University in New Haven, Conn., learned too late that the application he mailed home from school was no good. The letter he received yesterday from the Montgomery County Election Board was dated Oct. 28 and postmarked Oct. 29, the last day mail-in applications were accepted.
"I feel cheated of my right to vote," he said by telephone from New Haven. "I don't know whose fault it is [but] I wanted to vote in the election and obviously cannot now."
In a year of close races around the country that could shift the balance of power in Congress, Maryland is not alone in dealing with problems concerning absentee-ballot rules and other election procedures.
Minnesota Democrats were in state Supreme Court yesterday to challenge the decision to keep deceased Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone on absentee ballots and deny absentee voters the chance to pick the replacement candidate, former Vice President Walter F. Mondale.
Democrats in Arkansas have said Republicans are discouraging black voters through intimidation, charges reminiscent of Florida's 2002 presidential election. In South Dakota, Republicans have accused Democrats of bloating voter rolls with dead people.
Increased reports of voter fraud throughout the country has prompted Attorney General John Ashcroft to order heightened monitoring of elections and vigorous prosecution of violators under the Voting Integrity Initiative.
Maryland election officials said they strictly followed regulations in rejecting the Republicans' form because the party did not use an official form and omitted a space for voters to write their birth dates.
State Elections Administrator Linda Lamone, with help from lawyers from the state Attorney General's Office, rejected the application form. She said local election boards made every effort to contact voters who used the invalid form. They had notified 8,000 to 9,000 of the voters before deadline passed, she said.
"The parties can use all the rhetoric they want. It was not a partisan decision," said Miss Lamone, who was appointed by Democratic Gov. Parris N. Glendening before the appointment authority was transferred in 1998 to the five-member State Election Board.
Townsend campaign spokeswoman Kate Philips bristled at the implication Democrats manipulated election law to disenfranchise voters.
"The Republicans would know firsthand how to manipulate the election process," she said. "It is preposterous to accuse us of that. Everyone should have learned a lesson from [the 2000 election in] Florida. The election process was blurred, and we should all strive to have a fair and legitimate election."
The Ehrlich campaign declined to comment on the issue.
However, Mr. Ehrlich last week defended the application, saying it complied with state law if not the regulations the election board writes.
More than 50,000 absentee ballots have been mailed to Maryland voters for Tuesday's election, and registered voters can still get one by visiting their local elections office.

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