The Baltimore Sun

Optical-scan voting a step to security

The Sun's article "Security of ballot not 100%" (Jan. 19) did a generally good job of describing optical-scan voting as the most accurate, transparent, cost-effective and reliable voting system available.

Gov. Martin O'Malley deserves credit for moving Maryland away from paper-less voting.

After five years of energetic citizen organizing, Mr. O'Malley signed legislation mandating the new system in 2007; last week, he dedicated funding for the transition in his budget.

This is a major step forward for Maryland, as this new arrangement will combine the rapid counting of optical-scan voting with the ability to recount a paper ballot.

But one last reform is needed to ensure the accuracy of our elections in Maryland: routine random audits of a percentage of the votes to ensure that the optical-scan machines have counted them accurately.

Currently, only an expensive recount process sponsored by a losing candidate would trigger a review of the vote count.

Audits for businesses are routine; our elections deserve no less scrutiny.

Linda Schade


The writer is the founder of TrueVoteMD.org.

New mayor moves the city forward

Kudos to Mayor Sheila Dixon and the city for unveiling a 10-year plan to end homelessness in our beloved city ("End to homelessness," Jan.18).

The mayor's resolve to end homelessness in the city is commendable. Under Ms. Dixon's leadership, I see Baltimore changing for the better.

J. W. Chapman


60 years to house the city's homeless?

The Sun's editorial "Ending homelessness" (Jan. 17) is inexcusably misleading.

It points out that there are 3,000 homeless people in Baltimore and that the jewel of the mayor's plan is that "within the decade, 500 units would be rented to individuals or families who have been homeless for a long time or who have multiple problems."

At that rate, it would take 60 years to house Baltimore's 3,000 homeless people. Most of them would be dead by then.

Worse still, those "500 units" within 10 years won't even be new apartments or houses. Presumably, they will merely be transferred from 500 other low-income subsidized housing residents who are almost as needy, and who, as a result, might well become homeless themselves.

What would be gained?

In the meantime, the impending economic collapse of capitalism will certainly increase homelessness by hundreds or thousands.

To herald such puny promises as an "ambitious" plan is to mightily deceive the public.

A. Robert Kaufman


Efficiency can save energy, cut pollution

I'm delighted to see that both the governor and The Sun are focusing on improving energy efficiency in Maryland ("Planting bulbs," editorial, Jan. 18).

The days of cheap energy really are gone for good, and continuing to use energy thoughtlessly will cost us big bucks as consumers.

However, it's easy to save money by replacing our old bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs, unplugging TVs and cell phone chargers when not in use, replacing old appliances with more energy-efficient ones and turning off computers at the end of the day.

And we all save when other people do the same thing because that reduces the need for new power plants and the threat of rolling blackouts.

But the best part is that by conserving, we reduce asthma-causing air pollution and the devastating effects of global warming.

Kudos to Gov. Martin O'Malley for putting forth an ambitious plan ("O'Malley to offer energy package," Jan. 14).

Let's hope the legislature sees the long-term benefits of energy efficiency and sets the governor's goals into law.

Julie Burris


Keillor's blast unfair to Republican voters

In his column "Writer blasts candidates for not lashing out" (Opinion

Commentary, Jan. 17), Garrison Keillor conveniently seems to have forgotten that it was the votes of millions of Americans that elected our current president who, Mr. Keillor states "with all due respect to fools and idiots, is a fool and an idiot."

Politics aside, personal attacks on the mental fitness of our highest official dishonor those who voted and do nothing to advance constructive thinking on the issues we face.

Richard Vollmer


Life tenure fosters judicial arrogance

Michael Cain and Zach Messitte are against Maryland judges' being subject to contested popular elections ("Elections don't do justice to state's Circuit Court judges," Opinion

Commentary, Jan. 14).

While their concern is understandable, the answer is not for Maryland to go back to lifetime judicial appointments. The better solution would be for Maryland judges to be appointed to a fixed term, perhaps seven years, with no additional terms possible.

Under lifetime appointments, judges, for all practical purposes, become accountable to no one, and too many become indifferent to their duty to be fair and impartial jurists.

If judges know they will have to give up their immense powers after a term of years, they will remain much more sensitive to being fair and impartial - knowing that, in a period of years, they will again be merely practicing attorneys seeking justice for their clients in the Maryland judicial system.

Paul Streckfus


Men aren't menaced by unsafe abortions

I feel that men should have a say on abortion the day the first one dies from a botched illegal abortion ("Abortion's toll on men," Jan. 17).

Until then, there is an easy way for men to remove the abortion issue from their lives: It is called a condom.

Margaret Steiner


Hygiene may be key to beating bacteria

The recent appearance of the bacteria Acinetobacter baumannii at the University of Maryland Medical Center is evidence that physicians and public health officials should be stressing rigorous cleaning of hospitals and meticulous compliance with isolation precautions ("Bacterial infection hits four at hospital," Jan. 17).

In recent months, MRSA deaths have made headlines. But the appearance of A. baumannii is a reminder that resistant infections are a broader problem.

In 2006, another bacterium, Clostridium difficile, caused more hospital infection deaths in England than MRSA. Already, some researchers in the United States are warning that it is the new epidemic here, and the same especially virulent strain of C. difficile found in England is racing through some American hospitals.

Developing new antibiotics is important, but it takes time. And scientists will not always win the race against constantly morphing superbugs.

Whatever the bacterium, hygiene is the best defense.

Betsy McCaughey

New York

The writer is chairwoman of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths and a former lieutenant governor of New York State.

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