- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 5, 2006

ANNAPOLIS (AP) — A group of lawyers and civil rights organizations will consider going to court today if the Maryland State Board of Elections denies its request to extend the deadline for voters to get their absentee ballots postmarked.

More than 190,000 Marylanders had requested absentee ballots as of Saturday, elections officials said. But some voters still have not received their ballots, and without an extension, those postmarked later than today would not be counted in the election tomorrow.

The group, known as the Maryland Election Protection Coalition, has asked the elections board to extend the deadline by 24 hours, according to the Baltimore Sun.

“This is such a commonsense, easy thing to do in the face of a real problem,” said David Rocah, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland. “It’s somewhat inconceivable to me that the board isn’t willing to act.”

Deputy Elections Administrator Ross K. Goldstein said Saturday that the board has not formally acted on the request. He also said two board members told him they are not inclined to make the change.

Sen. Paul G. Pinsky, Prince George’s Democrat and head of the legislative committee that would have to approve emergency regulation requests by the board, said he would be willing to expedite needed change. Extending the deadline likely would not be disruptive and might ensure that more votes are counted, he said.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican running for re-election, and others have urged Marylanders to vote absentee because of questions about the reliability of the state’s election system. As a result, there has been a record request for ballots that sometimes overwhelmed local elections boards.

Voters who are in town can deliver filled-out absentee ballots to the local board of election any time tomorrow. If the ballots have not been received, voters can go to their polling places and request provisional ballots.

Mr. Rocah said provisional ballots are a poor substitute because there was a shortage of them in the September primary. Also, people who are out of town don’t have that option, he said.

The Maryland Election Protection Coalition is made up of the ACLU, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, People for the American Way Foundation, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now and the National Bar Association.

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