Sunday, August 10, 2008

Something Can Be Done About Lines at the Polls

"There's not a thing we can do to avoid the long lines on Election Day" [Southern Maryland Extra, Aug. 7]. That's what we're hearing from Maryland election officials. And that's no surprise: These officials work for the state administrator, and it's her position that nothing can be done about the inevitable lines.

And why are they inevitable? Because voters don't go to the polls in equal numbers throughout the day. The heavy voting hours are 7 to 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. until the polls close. Most people can vote only before or after their jobs. With an average of 10 or 12 voting machines per precinct, there are going to be times when those wanting to vote will be waiting in line for an hour or more.

So, across the state, hundreds or perhaps thousands of Maryland residents will be denied the right to vote in November because they can't wait one or more hours. They have jobs to go to, kids to take care of and dinners to fix.

What would happen if all of the machines in a precinct crashed? There's a procedure to meet that contingency. It's called emergency paper ballots. So why not say that when more than an hour's worth of voters are in line, that's an emergency, and we'll let them vote on paper ballots if they choose?

That question has been asked repeatedly of the state administrator of elections, and the answer is always that it's not possible. Many excuses have been offered, but none explains why it's possible to provide paper ballots when the machines crash but not when the lines are long enough to disenfranchise voters.

This is a matter for the State Board of Elections, not the administrator, to decide. It's time for the board to step up and direct the administrator to issue instructions to her local officials stating that when the line is longer than a specified length, paper ballots will be offered. Otherwise, some Marylanders will be denied their vote in November because "nothing could be done about it."

Michael Berla


Losing a Golf Course, Gaining a Subdivision

The future of the Twin Shields Golf Course in Dunkirk appears in doubt. It might close and be replaced by a 51-home subdivision.

The owners have already submitted a subdivision application. It is expected to be presented to the Calvert County Planning Commission by the fall, providing the initial steps to close what has been a recreational institution for nearly 40 years.

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