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The Baltimore Sun

Constitution allows electoral reform bill

There is certainly legitimate disagreement about whether the recently passed bill to award Maryland's presidential electoral votes to the national popular vote winner is a good idea. But Alan Natapoff's assertion that this is unconstitutional is ridiculous ("Stop plan to diminish Marylanders' voting power," Opinion * Commentary, April 5).

Maryland will not be "deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate without its consent" -- we will still have two U.S. senators, and we will still have our two "senatorial" electoral votes as well. Besides that, our state legislature has consented to this plan.

Nor will Maryland's voters be "disenfranchised" if their candidate doesn't win.

Maryland's votes will be added to the national vote totals, just like everyone else's.

What would disenfranchise voters is Mr. Natapoff's screwball plan, under which Marylanders would cast blank ballots if they think that their candidate won't win the state.

The U.S. Constitution provides that "each state shall appoint [presidential electors] in such manner as the legislature thereof may direct."

State legislatures can allocate their electoral votes however they want - they don't even need to hold elections.

And case law also makes it perfectly clear that using the national popular vote to do so is constitutional.

Douglas E. McNeil


The writer is director of Marylanders for Democracy, a nonpartisan fair ballot access organization.

Divide electoral vote based on state count

The legislation passed by the General Assembly, which proposes to assign Maryland's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the national popular vote, is a very bad idea and should be stopped in its tracks.

However, I have long believed that the current structure of the Electoral College is in dire need of reform.

Rather than the current state-by-state, winner-take-all policy, state electoral votes should be apportioned according to the percentage of the popular vote each candidate receives in the state.

For example, the number of electoral votes received by a candidate (including a third-party candidate) would equal the total number of state electoral votes multiplied by the percentage of the popular votes received by the candidate, rounded up or down to the nearest integer.

Not only would this approach more accurately reflect the political views of state voters, but supporters of third-party candidates would not feel they had thrown away their votes by not voting for one of the major party candidates.

I believe that, over time, such a policy would either push the major party positions closer to those of the popular majority or strengthen alternative third parties.

Of course, this scheme would work best on a national level if adopted by all the states. But I would even be happy to see it adopted one state at a time.

John J. Degnan


Smoking ban dulls dining experience

My wife and I make an evening of it when we go out to dinner. But thanks to the Maryland legislature, we will no longer be able to enjoy a cigarette over drinks and dinner ("No ground rent and no smoking," April 7).

I'll be damned if we are going to stand outside to smoke a cigarette. And I have no doubt that the next step will be to ban smoking within so many feet of a building.

As soon as our home is paid for, we will be moving to Myrtle Beach, S.C.

That day can't come soon enough.

Roger L. Kegley


Given budget woes, ICC makes no sense

I have a question for any Maryland legislator: How can the state afford the construction of the Intercounty Connector (ICC) at an estimated cost of $2.4 billion, especially since the state is facing a budget shortfall for next year that could top $1.5 billion ("State leaders avoid the big issue," April 9)?

Reports have suggested that the ICC will be partially funded by tolls on the road, with some estimates suggesting that the tolls will be very high.

How many Rolls-Royces will be traveling on this road?

Our governor and state legislators need to take a major detour on the ICC.

Stuart M. Kohn


Vote count change may pay for itself

The Sun's excellent article "Senate OKs paper-trail votes" (April 7) mentions that the new system is expected to cost $18 million to $20 million and that many state senators regard that as a problem.

I am happy to be able to allay the senators' fears.

In February 2006, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. sent a letter to Maryland State Board of Elections Chairman Gilles Burger.

He wrote, with regard to the annual costs of maintaining Maryland's touch-screen voting machines: "The 2001 fiscal note estimated such maintenance would be $858,000. For the upcoming fiscal year, the State Board of Elections requested $9,528,597 for these costs."

Thus thanks to the explosion of maintenance costs for the touch-screen machines, dropping two years of those maintenance costs would pay for the optical-scan system outright.

Not only can Maryland afford to fund the new voting system in time for the 2008 election, we cannot afford not to.

Raymond J. Mondor

Silver Spring

The writer is a member of TrueVote Maryland.

Surge now just way for Bush to save face

I think the "surge" strategy of pouring more and more U.S. troops onto the Iraqi battlefield is actually President Bush's effort to keep a lid on the insurgency until he leaves office in January 2009 ("1,300 heading to Iraq," April 6).

Despite what he says publicly, and despite the continuing cost in lives and money, with the Nouri al-Maliki government paralyzed by infighting and corruption and the Iraqi army still unreliable, I'm convinced that Mr. Bush now believes his best hope in Iraq is no longer for "victory" but simply to save face personally.

It's time for Congress to support the troops by pulling the fiscal plug on this war and to authorize only enough funds to bring U.S. forces home before the next administration takes office.

Face-saving must not be a reason for continuing the war.

Herman M. Heyn


Substitute snooze not front-page news

Why in the world would The Sun's editors think that Comcast's replacing C-SPAN2 with the Orioles might warrant a front-page article ("Comcast puts in O's as sub for C-SPAN2" (April 7)?

This seems like just a routine swap of one nap for another, eh?

Lowell E. Sunderland



An April 9 letter incorrectly asserted that U.S. soldiers must pay out-of-state tuition rates at Maryland state colleges and universities. In fact, members of the U.S. armed forces stationed in Maryland and their spouses and dependents are eligible for in-state tuition rates in the University System of Maryland.

The Sun regrets the error.

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