- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 8, 2006

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. wants the General Assembly to pass regulations to tighten licensing standards in the state as soon as possible.

In a two-page letter to its chairman, Sen. Paul G. Pinsky, Mr. Ehrlich, said the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review (AELR) should not wait until after the November elections to debate curbs on license fraud by illegal aliens.

“I request that you schedule a hearing on this matter at the earliest possible date and strongly urge that the AELR committee approve the regulations,” Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, wrote.

An internal study this summer by the state Motor Vehicle Administration revealed a 233 percent increase in the number of false claims of residency or attempts to obtain new identities when applying for licenses, mainly at branches that serve many foreign-born people.

In response, the MVA this summer filed a proposal to eliminate the use of foreign baptismal and school records to prove identity.

Mr. Pinsky told The Washington Times last month that several committee members had called for a hearing, saying the proposal was discriminatory.

But Mr. Ehrlich said the MVA study — coupled with the doubling of applications filed each week by foreign-born applicants, the recent indictment of five MVA employees suspected of selling more than 150 fake licenses and the knowledge that at least one September 11 hijacker obtained a license in the state — indicate a recipe for disaster.

Maryland does not require that license applicants be in the U.S. legally.

“It is clear that Maryland is becoming a magnet for illegal immigrants living on the East Coast who are using fraud to prove legal residence in the State,” Mr. Ehrlich wrote. “It is imperative that we do everything in our power to stop this kind of fraud.”

Mr. Pinsky, however, accused Mr. Ehrlich of pandering for votes and said tightening standards could create an even bigger market for fake IDs.

Mr. Pinsky called Mr. Ehrlich’s letter contradictory because it argues that illegal aliens are able to obtain licenses easily in the state but also says that the market for fake IDs is thriving.

The senator also said the committee was in no hurry to pass regulations mere months before the rules likely will change again to bring the state into compliance with the federal Real ID Act.

The act requires that all states by 2008 verify the legal status of license applicants or the licenses may not be used for federal purposes such as boarding planes or entering federal buildings.

“If it’s legitimate reasons we should change [the regulations], I think we should talk about it,” said Mr. Pinsky, Prince George’s Democrat. “For us to hold it off for a month doesn’t seem illogical. … I just don’t want to be bullied into it because a campaign’s on.”

• Mixed message

A campaign staffer for Democratic congressional candidate Al Weed resigned last week after sending an e-mail to supporters that used vulgar language and poked fun at Republican Sen. George Allen.

Meryl Ibis resigned after sending the e-mail in preparation for Mr. Allen’s scheduled stop in Danville, said Curt Gleeson, a spokesman for Mr. Weed, who is challenging incumbent Rep. Virgil H. Goode Jr. for the 5th District seat.

The message referred to Mr. Allen as “George ‘Macacawitz’ Allen,” combining the word “macaca” he used to refer to an opponent’s campaign volunteer of Indian decent and Mr. Allen’s recently uncovered Jewish heritage.

The message also encouraged supporters to “show up and let the senator know we are sick of his [expletive].”

The resignation came Wednesday after the Weed campaign read the message, Mr. Gleeson said.

“A young field staffer made an error in judgment, and we immediately accepted her resignation,” Mr. Weed said. “In no way do I or this campaign condone derogatory language.”

• Poll shortage

Maryland elections officials are trying to find more poll workers, particularly Repub-lican election judges, to avoid polls opening late for the Nov. 7 elections, as they did during the primaries last month.

Judges failing to show up on time caused serious problems in Baltimore, where about 10 percent of the city’s precincts opened more than an hour late.

More than 1,300 people have answered the call from elections officials, but only 125 are Republicans, Abigail Goldman, an elections supervisor with the Baltimore Board of Elections, told the Baltimore Sun.

State law requires precincts with more than 200 registered voters to have at least two election judges from each of the major parties.

“We’re in excellent shape, but no matter what, it’s going to be hard to get Republicans,” said Cornelius L. Jones, interim elections chief in Baltimore. “There are 30,000 of them in the city. That’s not much to work with.”

Mayor Martin O’Malley’s office began mailing letters last week to the city’s Republicans, asking for their help.

“I am writing you because, regardless of political party, all of us want a fair and efficient election,” wrote Mr. O’Malley, the Democratic nominee for governor. “Although there is still a need for qualified Democratic and Republican judges in Baltimore city, the need for Republican judges is particularly acute.”

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican running against Mr. O’Malley, has sent a letter to state employees, asking them to consider volunteering to help at the polls.

Maryland Republican Party Chairman John M. Kane said that glitches during the primary have compounded the problem of recruiting volunteers but that the party “still has 30 days to work on it.”Prince George’s County also had problems at the polls during the primary. It needed 600 more judges as of last week.

Baltimore County won’t know its gap until it finishes paying its judges who served Sept. 12, but it was 500 judges short during the primary. Anne Arundel County estimates that it is 50 Republicans short.

nKeyonna Summers contributed to this column, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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