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As Long as We Remember...

November 6, 2006

What Tomorrow Brings

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

One more robocall, attack mail, radio commercial, or newspaper ad probably won't influence a single vote. If a candidate doesn't have that stray vote locked up by now, nothing that happens today and tonight will change that.

Candidates will head out tonight to erect yard signs at every polling place throughout the county. My question is: has any voter, ever, been influenced by seeing one particular candidate's yard sign just before they went in to vote?

I'm trying to picture some clueless goober, walking across an elementary school parking lot, looking up and seeing that Elect Joe Schmoe sign, and thinking to himself: "Oh, yes, I completely forgot about old Joe! I'm so glad he has his sign stuck right there!"

If I sound too high-minded, remember, I'll be out there putting up signs just like everyone else. When in Rome.! Well, you know the rest.

Dawn tomorrow will break over hundreds of poll workers, civic-minded citizens who traded a workday for a measly pittance and the honor of manning a poll location so the rest of us can vote.

Well.maybe not so much the rest of us, at least not this time. It appears that the call to rely on absentee balloting worked, as historic numbers of absentee ballots were requested across the state. Right here in Frederick County, the numbers are approaching 6,500.

This absentee ballot call to arms is bi-partisan, since both major party gubernatorial candidates have suggested voters consider a method other than walking into their local precinct and casting a vote on the Diebold touchscreen voting system.

Barrels of ink have been spent covering this story; the details are mind-numbing but more than mildly disturbing. Without a paper printout, a voter is left to trust that their vote was actually cast, and will actually count at the end of the day.

Software experts have hacked into the Diebold code, and at least two universities proved that the system is susceptible to digital manipulation.

All of this notwithstanding, I intend to walk into my polling place at Brunswick Middle School and cast my vote. Voting is more than a civic duty to me. My voting experience is rich and rewarding. I get to see and visit with old friends. I know all of the judges, and I get hugs and well wishes from almost everyone in the room (yes, even the Democrats).

Given the high number of absentee votes, the traditional gathering of political insiders at Winchester Hall may not be the draw it normally would be. During the primary back in September, we waited until well after 11P.M. to know the winners and losers.

A plausible scenario would have the Winchester Hall crowd wandering out into the night sometime after midnight, left completely unresolved as to the winners of most of the significant races, like the governor, U.S. Senate, and possibly even some of the delegate and commissioner seats.

Past history suggests that the final few commissioner seats are only separated by a handful of votes, so this one could be left up to those thousands of absentee votes tucked away in the basement of Winchester Hall until Thursday when they will be counted.

Those late evening victory parties may not be quite so festive this time around. No confetti drops, no horns blowing, just days of additional worry and fret as a number of candidates await an extended absentee vote count.

Whether you vote by absentee or visit your designated polling location, the most important aspect of this whole magical drama of the exercise of constitutional rights is that you vote.

We'll have plenty of time to argue, second-guess, and contemplate the results. Those who make a choice not to participate effectively surrender their right to criticize any aspect of the governance administered by those who get elected. In my short time as a county commissioner in 2001 and 2002, I recall Commissioner Lennie Thompson, whose office was next to mine, answering constituent email by asking if the person offering the criticism was a registered voter.

I'm certain that anyone who received that correspondence would have been angered and offended. Lennie knew through experience that the most vocal and frequent critics of county government were often not registered to vote.

While I might have a quibble with the method, I fully support the concept. The best way to bring legitimacy to your advocacy is to vote, and whether you use an absentee ballot or the real thing, be sure to make your voice heard tomorrow. Remember, if you don't, someone else will be speaking on your behalf, and it might just be that goober who's influenced by the Joe Schmoe sign at the polling place!

Woodsboro - Walkersville Times
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