Challenging voters: Diligence, or suppression?
The Maryland Democratic Party accused gubernatorial candidate Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. Friday of “encouraging voter suppression” by instructing the listeners of his radio show to monitor early voting polling places with an eye out for “questionable” voters.
“You have people there challenging a particular questionable person voting … it’s diligence and vigilance. It’s having people there — if there’s a questionable person voting, it’s challenged on the spot,” the Republican former governor said, according to the Democrats' transcript of that portion of the WBAL show.
The Democratic spin: It's 2006 all over again. The statement reminds them of a not-so-pretty episode from the last race, when the Ehrlich campaign bused indigent Philadelphians in to heavily African-American precincts in Baltimore and Prince George's County on Election Day to distribute fake "Democratic Sample Ballots" that suggested that Kweisi Mfume and other black leaders were endorsing Republicans.
"The only questionable person that voters should be concerned about is Bob Ehrlich and he knows it," Democratic spokesman Isaac Salazar wrote in an e-mail to reporters. "And he's going to do everything he can to mislead votes again."
Ehrlich spokesman Andy Barth said the Democrats were not listening to the WBAL show very carefully and got the context wrong. The former governor was not asking random listeners to play a role in determining the suitability of voters. “He is encouraging the election judges to be sure that anyone who appears to vote is entitled to vote,” Barth explained. “Determining the appropriateness of voters is the function of election judges.” (Those with a desire to sign up as election judges can find out more about the position here.)
We think today’s misunderstanding/outrage serves as good reminder that state’s new early voting rules will this year transform Maryland’s “Election Day” into “Election Week.” Polls will be open and ready for voters a full six days before the primary (Sept. 14) and again six days before the general election (Nov. 2) per a successful 2008 ballot initiative.