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Hogan and Frosh need to find election common ground now more than ever | READER COMMENTARY

Hubert Patrick pulls a rack full of vote-by-mail ballots to be loaded onto a truck at the Broward County Voter Equipment Center in Lauderhill on Thursday, July 9, 2020.
Hubert Patrick pulls a rack full of vote-by-mail ballots to be loaded onto a truck at the Broward County Voter Equipment Center in Lauderhill on Thursday, July 9, 2020. (Amy Beth Bennett / South Florida Sun Sentinel)

I read with some dismay the coverage of Attorney General Brian Frosh’s condemnation of Governor Larry Hogan’s decision to hold in-person elections in November (”Maryland AG accuses Gov. Hogan of ‘bowing’ to Trump’s ‘reckless demands’ with in-person election decision,” July 10). Although I agree with the substance of Mr. Frosh’s position — that the governor got it wrong this time — attributing that decision to knuckling under the bullying of President Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is inconsistent with the facts of Mr. Hogan’s management of the COVID-19 crisis, and it reignites partisan fires at a time when we need to work together to guide our state through the dangerous times that lie ahead.

Mr. Hogan and Mr. Frosh have locked heads several times during the past six years, but if there ever was a time to find common ground and protect the rights of Marylanders to exercise their most sacred right and duty, it’s in the summer and fall of 2020. Claiming that the governor is carrying the president’s voter suppression water isn’t going to get us closer to a workable solution.

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And the sad fact is that the governor’s solution is far from ideal. We can’t know what the pandemic situation will be in four months, so we should hope for the best while preparing for the worst. As The Sun’s initial coverage reported, leaders from Common Cause and the League of Women Voters in Maryland predicted chaos in the precincts under traditional voting (”Election rights advocates call for Maryland to send ballots by mail in June primary,” March 19), because many election judges are retirees, a group most threatened by the virus. I’ll have to decide this week whether I can commit to being a judge in November. And, frankly, with the certainties of age and medical conditions versus the possibility that things will be better, or not worse, in November, I’m afraid this a pretty obvious decision.

Mr. Hogan may be willing to re-assess his decision, which went against the recommendations of both Republicans and Democrats on the State Elections Board, given the thoughtful and near-unanimous response to it. A better solution might be a hybrid of sorts, with options for mail-in voting, an extended early voting period and a traditional voting day as well. This would be more expensive than locking in on one system, but it seems unwise to make cost-effectiveness the principal consideration in developing an elections strategy. This might give us some time to learn from the failures in June’s mail-in system, and perhaps even to change vendors if that’s necessary.

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The main advantage of this system is, if, as we all hope, the pandemic is less threatening in late October, we’ll be ready to hold traditional elections; if the situation worsens, voters will have the option to vote by mail: they won’t have to weigh their right to vote against their safety and that of those with whom they come into contact,

It’s time to stop sniping and build consensus. A guardrail of our democracy is at stake.

David Dougherty, Timonium

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