Voting Paper Trail Needed

In July as 100 people rallied in Annapolis, we got news that Maryland elected officials have not yet requested a paper trail for our state's 16,000 new touch-screen voting machines. This inaction persists even though Johns Hopkins University professor Avi Rubin and others concluded that the Diebold machines could be hacked to change election results.

I am particularly concerned that this problem be addressed before the November elections because my friend Jackie Cole, who ran for City Council on May 15 in Galveston, Tex., almost lost her race because of computerized machine vote counting errors. Her opponent was declared the winner due to machine malfunction in enough precincts to consider a recount. But the later recount, using paper printouts, proved that she was the victor with 60 percent of the vote.

This week the Campaign for Verifiable Voting (CVV) was in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court demanding that the state provide paper ballots for the 2004 election. They contended that Maryland officials have been negligent in correcting flaws in the Diebold machines.

But Wednesday Judge Joseph P. Manck ruled that Maryland's new electronic voting system had done enough to "ensure each vote is counted and the security and secrecy of the ballots remain intact." CVV has vowed to appeal.

We need a voter-verified paper audit trail here in Maryland. This will allow local election officials to spot any malfunctions and guarantee the possibility of necessary recounts. State officials must get Diebold to add printers to our machines now. Let's get it right so that everyone's vote will count!

Ask your delegates to insist that the State Board of Elections provide a paper ballot alternative if necessary. Ask Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) to vote in Congress for HR 2239, the Voter Confidence Act, which would require audit trails in all electronic voting machines nationwide.

Get more details on the Internet at www.truevotemd.org and www.elections.state.md.us. Don't let the computers eat your vote!

Frank L. Fox

Mechanicsville

SMECO's Land Interests

Okay, now we know the Charles County commissioners have laid the groundwork to build a minor league baseball stadium in Hughesville. What most folks do not know is that, along with the stadium, there are 53 acres of industrial, over 24 acres of commercial and a little over 17 for a dedicated wastewater treatment facility proposed -- all Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative-owned land.

If any of these parcels were to be developed, then it would be easier for more agricultural acreage to be rezoned.

Additionally, the land that would be donated for the stadium was just recently purchased by SMECO. When did it get into the business of land management? SMECO is a business cooperative. Everybody who gets their electricity from SMECO is a co-owner, which is just about everybody in the Southern Maryland area. It seems to me that our interests are not being considered. I, for one, would like to have seen my electric bill reduced instead of money being used to purchase land.

Preserve Hughesville, a citizen activist group, has recently been formed. It is the goal of our members to protect the rural character of Hughesville, to promote schools (expansions of T.C. Martin Elementary School) and remind people that it is not just about the stadium. More information about the group is available by calling 301-932-7249.

Jo Ellen Trossbach

Hughesville

Distorting History

I'd like to take exception with James Gray's letter to the editor ["Perspective of History," Extra, Aug. 22]. My original thought was to urge him to fully research his claims before using them to support an argument. For instance, it was President Dwight D. Eisenhower who first authorized up to 50 military advisers sent to Vietnam -- our troops weren't originally sent there by President John F. Kennedy.

Then I looked at Mr. Gray's claims again and realized that he wasn't citing facts -- he was merely repeating innuendo, distortions and alternate historical theories in order to frame his "questions." I don't blame Mr. Gray for his faulty argument -- it's the same technique that so many of our political campaigners (both Republican and Democratic) use.

The current flap over Sen. John F. Kerry's service in Vietnam is just the latest example of this. I've been waiting to hear why the Swift Boat veterans should have any more credibility in their claims than the Democratic backers [of Kerry] had in questioning President Bush's service attendance record in the National Guard. Neither side is fully supported by documentation, and both sides are arguing based on 30-year-old memories that could easily be mistaken. . . .

Basically, Mr. Gray is making an emotional appeal to readers. Yes, it's his opinion, but by distorting records on only one side of the fence (if you really wanted to make a valid point, you could have easily included President Richard M. Nixon's actions in expanding the Vietnam War or President Ronald Reagan's justification for invading Grenada), Mr. Gray fails to convince this voter.

Finally, after all his impassioned argument, the only thing I took out of this letter is, "All these other presidents did it, so why can't Bush, too?"

I guess I'm surprised he didn't hit up President Bill Clinton -- you'd think there may have been some issues in Clinton's eight years that Mr. Gray could have used or distorted to fit his premise.

Richard H. Kinsch

La Plata

Code Home Rule Issues

In November, Calvert County voters will decide whether to change our county government to a form known as code home rule. There seems to be some confusion on whether taxes could be raised by the county commissioners under a code home rule government. In short, and to spare the reader detailed legal analysis, the only new and additional tax that the commissioners could impose under a code home rule government is the [real estate] transfer tax of a maximum of 0.5 percent.

A letter in Southern Maryland Extra ["Checks and Balances," Aug. 22] expressed concern that there are no checks and balances under code home rule. The reasoning is that under the current commissioner form of government, the General Assembly in Annapolis approves most local legislation. Under a code home rule form of government, the commissioners remain commissioners, but their powers are augmented to allow them to make certain local laws.

Can commissioners under a code rule government pass local laws without any kind of oversight? Several checks and balances ensure that code governments work. For example, all local laws passed under code home rule are subject to referendum if 10 percent of the voters submit a petition.

Also, the General Assembly may still pass local laws as long as they affect a class of code home rule counties. That is, the General Assembly has divided the state into geographic regions known as classes. Charles, St. Mary's and Calvert belong to a class known as Southern Maryland. If the General Assembly wished to pass a local law concerning Charles County, for example, the law must apply to any other code home rule governments in the Southern Maryland class. Currently, Charles County is the only code home rule government in the Southern Maryland class.

There is some legal argument that a code county can create a county executive position, which would provide the traditional form of check and balance. It has never been attempted by any of the six Maryland code counties, and neither the courts nor the General Assembly has addressed this issue, so it remains unclear whether code counties have this authority. . . .

Of course, the ultimate check and balance comes every four years at election time.

Rose C. Crunkleton

Owings

Concert Series Success

The Arts Outreach Office of St. Mary's College of Maryland expresses its deep appreciation to the Southern Maryland community for the sixth year of tremendous support shown at the 2004 River Concert Series. Rain or shine, the enthusiasm of thousands of people who come to the concerts each week continues to play a major role in the overwhelming success of what has become a summer tradition on the campus of St. Mary's College of Maryland.

The ambiance of the crowds of all ages provided a sense of excitement that enhanced each wonderful performance. Your generosity in filling the collection buckets raised over $15,000, which qualifies the "audience" to be a full Series Sponsor for the 2005 River Concert Series and sets a new standard of giving for future audiences to achieve.

Under the superb direction of conductor Jeffrey Silberschlag, the Chesapeake Orchestra and featured guest artists provided consistently outstanding performances resulting in standing ovations from delighted audiences, who enjoyed the wide variety of music offered.

The generosity of local community businesses, organizations and many individuals enabled the concerts to remain free, and we are grateful for their participation. We also want to thank dedicated St. Mary's College employees Nancy Aud, Missy Farren, Joanne Romer and others from the Office of Development; Josh Davis, Janet Haugaard, Lee Capristo and others from the Office of Publications; Sam Goddard, Jermaine Smith, George Lancaster, Joe Birch and others from the physical plant; the public safety office; the Office of Media and Public Relations; and numerous people in the music department and in the events office for their tireless efforts.

We are grateful to the Arts Alliance Steering Committee members who hosted each concert and cheerfully handed out programs. In addition, many thanks to the growing number of members of the Arts Alliance whose dues and donations help keep the River Concerts free for everyone.

Barbara Bershon

arts outreach coordinator

Same-Sex Union Shrillness

The increasingly shrill letters and articles objecting to gay marriages have three disturbing aspects.

First: the apparent belief that all homosexuals are predisposed to being sexual predators and guilty of child abuse and pornography, incest and bestiality. No facts are cited to support this assertion, which is baseless and intended only to demonize gays and lesbians.

Second: the numerous references to the Bible to justify laws prohibiting homosexual behavior. Why just Leviticus 18:22? Why not Leviticus 11:7 and 8, too? Laws based upon biblical doctrine are unfair to those American citizens who are not Christian or Jewish. Such laws are prohibited by the First Amendment to the Constitution. In order to ensure religious freedom to all citizens, our government must be secular, having no laws establishing or enforcing religious doctrine.

Third, and most insidious: the interference with the personal lives and moral decisions of adults. The government should not be controlling the moral decisions of anyone, unless those decisions are harming or coercing another person. The whole point of the biblical doctrine of "free will" is that every person must choose between moral behavior (to attain eternal grace) and sinful behavior (for fleeting gratification). It is against God's plan to take that choice away.

Bruce Kirk

La Plata