- The Washington Times - Monday, February 18, 2008

Fewer than 10,000 people voted during the extra 90 minutes added on to polling hours in Maryland’s primary Tuesday to address icy weather-related traffic problems, elections officials reported Thursday.

Linda H. Lamone, the state’s elections chief, said 9,441 provisional ballots had been reported for the extended period, and she didn’t expect the amount to change much. Mrs. Lamone said she thought it was a good idea to extend the polling hours “because it gave these voters an opportunity to vote in an election they obviously cared very much about.”

However, she also said elections officials will be looking at creating a better way of communicating to all poll workers because not everyone got word of the extension soon enough. County election directors, some of whom were angered by the decision to extend polling hours, had to scramble with cell phones, walkie-talkies and police radios to get word to the state’s 1,800 precincts to keep the polls open.

Mrs. Lamone said she asked Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Ronald A. Silkworth to extend the polling hours at about 7 p.m. Tuesday evening after receiving numerous calls from voters who complained that the foul weather had created traffic gridlock, delaying their arrival at polls. The judge approved a court order about 10 minutes later to keep the polls open past the initial 8 p.m. closing time until 9:30 p.m.

But not everyone got the message in time. Mrs. Lamone said it was not clear how many did not.

Montgomery and Anne Arundel counties, where the weather was particularly bad, had the largest number of provisional ballots cast during the extended time. Montgomery reported 2,168 ballots, and Anne Arundel reported 2,124. Prince George’s reported 1,611 provisional ballots.

Some Maryland counties reported next to none. St. Mary’s County reported just six provisional ballots, and Somerset reported nine. Kent County reported 21, and Cecil County reported 37.

The provisional ballots won’t be counted until tomorrow.

Overall, Mrs. Lamone said turnout was about 37 percent statewide, compared with 27 percent in the 2004 presidential primary in Maryland and 35 percent in 2000.

Absentee ballots also were high this year, with 47,449 returned to local elections boards. That compares with 16,787 total absentee ballots counted in the 2004 primary and 12,037 counted in 2000.

• What now?

Election officials in Queen Anne’s County are looking at law books to try to unravel a fluky finish in the county’s first-ever vote for school board members.

Mary McCarthy was the top vote-getter in Tuesday’s primary in District 2, even though she had told school officials she wanted to withdraw from the race.

Under the new school board election rules, the top two finishers — Miss McCarthy and runner-up Vito Tinelli — are supposed to meet in a runoff in November. County election director Britani Thomas said it is not clear whether Miss McCarthy’s withdrawal means third-place finisher William Blades will advance to the runoff instead.

Mr. Blades is a current member of the board.

• ’Nothing wrong’

Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon’s suspended communications director says he just wants to get his life back after prosecutors said they had closed their three-month investigation into a complaint of inappropriate behavior.

“I have had to share things about my life and myself I never thought I’d have to share,” Anthony McCarthy said Thursday. “I’ve done nothing wrong. I’d like to pick up my life where I left off.”

Mr. McCarthy was placed on leave after it was revealed that he was being investigated for a complaint of “inappropriate behavior” in Baltimore County, though prosecutors did not reveal specifics.

Mr. McCarthy’s attorney, A. Dwight Pettit, said his client didn’t speak to investigators, but provided lengthy written statements about what happened and why he was innocent. The investigation did not go before a grand jury but was dropped after a review by prosecutors.

Mr. McCarthy said he didn’t know whether he would work again at City Hall but said he hoped his hard work would speak for itself.

Mr. McCarthy, a minister who is openly homosexual, was asked whether his sexual orientation may have led to the investigation.

“We live in a world where people make a lot of assumptions,” he said, adding, “It may have made me a target.”

This column is based in part on wire service reports.

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