MARYLAND

Electronic Voting Opponents File Suit

A group that has challenged the security of Maryland's electronic voting filed a federal lawsuit yesterday against the State Board of Elections, saying that the state is unfairly blocking it from posting poll watchers at precincts on Election Day.

Last week, the state agreed to allow TrueVoteMD members to stand inside polling places to watch for problems with the machines. The group also wanted to post people immediately outside the doors to interview voters and give them information on electronic voting.

The Maryland attorney general's office later said that volunteers had to stay behind the 100-foot boundary outside polling places that restricts political parties and others involved in electioneering.

Members of TrueVoteMD said that they would simply be collecting information from voters and that forcing their group behind that line would violate the poll watchers' free-speech rights. The lawsuit argues that the group is no different than exit-poll workers, who can cross the line to question people about how they voted.

The group is asking a U.S. District Court judge in Baltimore to impose a restraining order on the state before the election, which would allow poll watchers within the 100-foot limit. But state officials said the group's lawsuit nullifies all the agreements the two sides reached last week, including issues that aren't in dispute, such as TrueVoteMD placing watchers in the polling places.

Woman Pushes Child Out of Truck's Path

A 59-year-old Kensington woman was seriously injured yesterday when she was hit by a pickup truck in Bethesda after pushing a stroller carrying an 18-month-old child out of the vehicle's path, Montgomery police said.

Maria Pattakos was in critical condition at Suburban Hospital, police said. She was walking with Pauline Londeree, 65, and Londeree's grandchild near Cedar Lane and Beach Drive in Bethesda when she was hit by a 1999 Ford pickup driven by John Paul Purcell, 54, of Bethesda, police said. The child received minor scrapes and Londeree was unhurt, police said.

Police said a preliminary investigation suggests that sunshine blinded Purcell, who was not speeding and who had a green light to turn onto Cedar Lane from Beach Drive. Purcell's truck hit Pattakos after he turned onto Cedar, which the women were crossing.

Pr. George's Officer Hurt in Crash

A Prince George's County police officer was hospitalized late last night after a head-on collision in the Largo area, police said.

The officer was conscious, and her injuries were not believed to be life-threatening, but she was flown to a hospital as a precaution after the 11:45 p.m. crash at White House and Brown Station roads, said Cpl. Joe Merkel, a police spokesman.

It was not immediately clear who was at fault in the accident. The officer reportedly was responding to a burglary in Upper Marlboro, Merkel said. The driver of the second vehicle was not seriously injured.

THE DISTRICT

Senate Approves City, School Changes

The Senate approved and passed on to President Bush late Monday legislation to align the District public school system's fiscal year with the school calendar, a long-sought change that school officials say will help them spend money more efficiently.

Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said the D.C. Omnibus Authorization Act included a half-dozen small changes this year but would become a helpful annual vehicle to manage city charter changes in the future without delaying passage of the District budget.

"In previous years, important D.C. reforms have often been held hostage in the appropriations process," Davis said.

"This legislation paves the way for an annual . . . bill free of contentious appropriations debate and helps eliminate riders," he added.

Identity of Body Found in River Unknown

District authorities are trying to determine whether a body recovered in the Anacostia River last night is that of a Georgetown University student who was presumed drowned after falling off a boat in a Southwest Washington marina Friday morning.

D.C. police harbor patrol officers were called to an area near the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge about 6:30 p.m., where a body was found. The body was taken to the D.C. medical examiner's office for identification, police said.

About 4:30 a.m. Friday, Georgetown junior Robert A. Tremain, 20, fell from a cabin cruiser as it docked at the James Creek Marina.

VIRGINIA

Train Hits Truck on Tracks; Driver Killed

The driver of a dump truck was killed at a rail crossing in Prince William County yesterday when his vehicle was hit by a freight train, county police said.

They said that Charles Settle, 52, of Warrenton was killed in Haymarket about 2:50 p.m. as he tried to drive his gravel-laden truck across the Norfolk Southern tracks east of Route 15.

Sgt. Kim Chinn, a police spokeswoman, said that the engineer sounded his horn as the train approached the uncontrolled crossing at Kapp Valley Way but that he could not stop in time. She said the train was traveling toward Manassas with more than 100 cars and the truck driver was on his way to a construction site.

Moran Criticizes Gun Law Changes

Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) told Virginia General Assembly leaders yesterday that a pending state "open-carry" law forced the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority board to loosen limits on assault weapons, high-powered rifles and other dangerous weapons at Reagan National and Dulles International airports and that the law should be changed.

"At a time when we are expending significant resources to combat potential terrorist actions and working to close security loopholes . . . it is inconceivable that we would relax restrictions on the carrying of firearms and other weapons on airport grounds," Moran wrote state House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) and state Senate Majority Leader Walter A. Stosch (R-Henrico).

The airport board agreed unanimously Oct. 6 to relax restrictions after pressure from a Virginia gun rights group whose members wear firearms on their hips in public to make the case for open-carry laws. The changes will take effect Dec. 1.

Officials said they made the changes, effective Dec. 1, because the rules did not enhance security and because they unfairly affected gun owners who might unknowingly break the law.

"Pencil and paper have been doing fine all these years. Why now?"

-- Eugene Dyson, a senior at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria,

which handed out laptops to its 2,100 students

for homework and school-related research. -- Page A1

Compiled from reports by staff writers David Snyder, Clarence Williams, Spencer Hsu and Martin Weil and the Associated Press.