- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 24, 2002

Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening said yesterday that he would consider using the National Guard to provide security at polling stations on Election Day, as a sniper who has killed 10 persons remains at large.
A Maryland advisory group has been weighing options to ensure voter turnout, including extending voting hours and changing the absentee ballot process. Mr. Glendening said on WTOP Radio's "Ask the Governor" program that the group was reviewing using the National Guard to provide security.
"I believe we should do everything possible to make sure people vote free of fear," he said. "We must ensure that the election proceeds calmly, safely."
Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner said yesterday that he would not consider using the National Guard. "But I have a group of people looking at ways we can make our polling places more secure and other options, like greater use of absentee balloting. Also, maybe we move more people inside the polling places," he said.
County elections officials said they were awaiting direction from state officials while trying to take some measures of their own to make voters feel safe.
In Montgomery County, the election board yesterday decided to let voters waiting in line to stand inside voting stations. Those who arrive at voting places before they open at 7 a.m. also would be accommodated inside, officials said.
However, they said that they do not have the authority to allow campaign workers indoors. The workers are required by state law to be at least 100 feet away from voting places.
"Any such decision will have to come from the State Board of Elections," said Susan Bratten, president of the Montgomery County Board of Elections.
Alisha Alexander, assistant administrator of the Prince George's County Board of Elections, said that the panel is planning to have extra police presence at voting stations. "We have asked polling places to house any overflow voters indoors. Other than that, at the local level there is not much we can do," she said.
During a campaign appearance in Baltimore yesterday, Republican gubernatorial nominee Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said he supports using the National Guard to secure polling places. He also called for procedural changes in the elections, including more police presence and forming lines inside polling stations.
Voter turnout will be crucial in what polls reveal is one of the state's closest gubernatorial contests. A poll released this week shows Mr. Ehrlich leading Mrs. Townsend by a percentage point.
"With all polls showing a close race, every vote counts," said Peter Hamm, a spokesman for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. "We need to get everybody out to vote No one should be disenfranchised out of fear."
Other Maryland races that could hinge on voter turnout include those for the 2nd and 8th congressional districts.
Maryland Democratic Party officials said that they hope county election offices will provide enough security to ensure voter safety. "We want as many voters to go to the polls as possible because when we have large voter turnouts, Democrats win," said spokesman David Paulson.
Meanwhile, the state Attorney General's Office ruled yesterday that absentee ballot applications mailed out last week by state Republican Party officials are not valid because the forms do not follow State Board of Elections regulations, which call for the voter's date of birth to be listed.
Michael Steele, Mr. Ehrlich's running mate, said that the matter is politically motivated. "If we were 20 points down, I don't think they would care about our absentee ballots," he said.
S.A. Miller contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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