- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 2, 2002

Republican gubernatorial nominee Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. told a group of Montgomery County senior citizens yesterday that absentee ballots blocked by Democratically appointed election officials is a "very serious" issue that could change the outcome of Tuesday's election.
He also urged the crowd at Leisure World a retirement community in Silver Spring where more than 8,000 voters make it the county's largest precinct to take the necessary steps to get valid absentee ballots applications.
The applications printed and distributed by the Republican Party were declared invalid by the Maryland State Elections Board on Oct. 19 because they were not the official form and did not have a space for a voter's birth date. More than 10,000 voters had to re-apply for ballots, and thousands may have missed the Oct. 29 deadline to receive a ballot by mail.
"This is a very serious thing we are talking about today," said Mr. Ehrlich, a U.S. congressman from Baltimore County. "As all of you know, a lot of people vote absentee."
To be sure, the Leisure World Republican Club is helping residents who cannot reach the elections office to get absentee applications.
Mr. Ehrlich said his campaign has been gaining momentum in Montgomery County, a traditional Democratic stronghold with nearly 17 percent of the state's registered voters.
"Our numbers are getting better and better and better every day," he said. "We were actually down a little bit a month or two ago in Montgomery County, and we have come back strong. The numbers we are looking at in Montgomery County may be historic highs for a Republican gubernatorial candidate."
He predicted the race would not be as close as some people expect. For the past two months, polls have showed Mr. Ehrlich in a statistical dead heat with Democratic nominee Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.
With just four days until the election, Mr. Ehrlich's schedule was much lighter than Mrs. Townsend's.
After appearing on morning television news shows seen in the Baltimore and Washington areas, all-news WTOP Radio and at Leisure World, Mr. Ehrlich headed to a high school football game at Gilman, his alma mater in Baltimore. He ended the day appearing with running mate Michael S. Steele on a Maryland Public Television news program.
Mrs. Townsend made a campaign stop in Baltimore County with Democratic Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin and state Sen. Paula Hollinger. She was at two senior centers, a bridge dedication, a restaurant and an independent-living facility in Pikesville, Md. Mrs. Townsend ended the day at a rally with former President Bill Clinton in Landover.
Mr. Ehrlich said his campaign was working as hard as Mrs. Townsend's, despite her hectic appearance schedule and statewide bus tours.
"We are pretty busy," he said. "We have had a plan from day one and we are just following it. Republicans in Maryland cannot coast ever."


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