Md. leaders urge voters to know their rights

LANDOVER, Md. — In an election year where the integrity of the election has been called into question, there’s an effort to make sure that voters know their rights if they are challenged at the polling place.

“We’re here today, because your right to vote is a fundamental principal of our democracy,” said Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., Monday outside the Prince George’s County Sports and Learning Complex — an early voting site.

Cardin was joined by Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh and Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks, as well as representatives from the local chapter of the NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and other civil rights groups.

Cardin said voting is a right that should be protected.

“We say that because in prior elections, we have seen problems in Maryland,” Cardin said.

Cardin said voter suppression was an issue in prior elections. During Maryland’s 2010 gubernatorial race, Cardin said, robocalls aimed at African-American Democrats told voters that they did need not go out to vote, even though the polls were still open. Also, Cardin said he was the victim of election fraud — that in a Senate race in 2006, it was suggested that his opponent, Republican Michael Steele had been endorsed by Democrat Kweisi Mfume, when, in fact, it was Mfume’s son Michael Mfume who had endorsed Steele.

Among attendees, a big concern was voter intimidation, the fear that observers might take it upon themselves to interfere with voters at the polling place.

Maryland law permits observers or “watchers” to monitor the voting process, but they must be affiliated with a campaign or group and they must be certified.

“It’s against the law to threaten or intimidate voters,” Frosh said.

Frosh offered advice on what voters should do if their registration or vote is called into question. Frosh urged voters not to leave their polling place without having cast their ballot.

“If your credentials aren’t totally in order on the day of the election, if they’re questioned, you can vote provisionally,” he said.

Asked if had reached out to Republicans to join him at Monday’s event, Cardin responded by saying voting rights was a nonpartisan issue.

“We want all eligible voters to vote — all eligible voters, regardless of who they vote for,” he said.

Maryland GOP Executive Director Joe Cluster was asked if he had concerns about the ability of voters to cast their ballots without interference.

“We have nine days to vote in this state. No-fault absentee and same-day registration. You don’t even have to show ID to vote … What barriers do we have?” Cluster said in an emailed response.

Citing issues such as appointments to the Supreme Court, the future of the Affordable Care Act and immigration policy, Bob Ross, president of the Prince George’s County chapter of the NAACP, urged voters to get out and be heard, regardless of their party affiliations.

“We want voters this year to run to the polls and vote this year like they’ve never voted before,” Ross said. “There’s too much at stake this year.”

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