Gov. Martin O'Malley is stepping up his involvement in the race for governor, starting with visits to campaign offices for Democratic nominee Anthony G. Brown Tuesday evening and Wednesday.
O'Malley disclosed his plans to visit the Brown offices in Baltimore and Prince George's County in response to a question at a State House news conference Tuesday to remind Marylanders that the deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 4 election is Oct. 14.
The term-limited governor has consistently supported the efforts of Brown, his lieutenant governor, to succeed him when he leaves office in January. But since Brown won the Democratic primary June 24, O'Malley has not been a highly visible presence in the gubernatorial campaign against Republican Larry Hogan.
That is about to change, according to the governor and his aides. O'Malley said he will be actively involved in efforts to boost Democratic turnout – a factor that could be crucial to Brown's success.
"As the head of the party, I'm absolutely going to do that," O'Malley said. "The message is turnout. We need a big turnout and we need to make sure we get our message out."
O'Malley said he intends to be "very involved" as the campaign enters its final weeks, pledging to do whatever Brown asks him to do.
The governor's main message at the news conference was a nonpartisan exhortation to all Marylanders urging that they vote this fall. He boasted that where other states have erected obstacles to voting, Maryland has made it easier.
O'Malley noted that Marylanders can register at a wide variety of locations – including Motor Vehicle Administration offices, county and state elections boards, libraries, county court clerks' offices, social services offices, Office of Aging and Department of Health and Mental Hygiene locations. Maryland Transit Administration Mobility certification offices, military recruitment centers and public colleges.
The governor said prospective voters can also go to elections.maryland.gov to register and obtain information. He noted that Marylanders under 18 can register to vote if they will reach that age by Nov. 4.
O'Malley encouraged Marylanders to take advantage of early voting, noting that about 16 percent of the state's ballots were cast before election day in 2012. Early voting begins Oct. 23 and continues through Oct. 30.
In response to a question, O'Malley expressed misgivings about the decision by the Attorney General's Office to appeal a federal court ruling ordering the State Board of Elections to use a new computerized ballot-marking tool in this year's election. The online system is designed to make it easier for the blind and other disabled voters to cast absentee ballots privately, without someone else's help.
Advocates for ballot security have opposed implementation of the system, changing that it is vulnerable to hacking. After hearing their concerns the elections board decided not to use the system.
O'Malley said he was not familiar with the details of the case brought by the National Federation of the Blind, which led to U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett's decision ordering the state to use the new system. However, the governor said he believes technology should be used to increase voter participation.
"I would be inclined to believe we should probably do what the judge told us to do," O'Malley said.
The governor plans to meet with Brown volunteers Tuesday evening at the campaign office on Eutaw Street in downtown Baltimore. He will do the same Wednesday night at Brown's field office in Mitchellville.