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July 24, 2009

Make the Switch!

Roy Meachum

Every candidate for the September 15 Frederick City primaries has been rustling around doors; not necessarily mine. Old Towne Tavern and the Democratic headquarter are across the street. With two tattoo parlors and three head shops in the block – and mine the first-single family dwelling from the Square Corner – a candidate should have sanity checked for working this block.


Offerings have been left at the door: a pamphlet for mayoral hopeful Jason Judd and a pair of aldermanic candidates, not including Karen Young. She showed up with a poster that I told her was out-of-bounds. By the way, those who think she's a beard for her husband simply don't know the relationship between the ex-mayor and his wife.


With something like six weeks left before the voting, I find myself in a political ennui to match the weather. Lacking the Gregorian calendar, the Romans called these the dog days; having spent summers along the Tiber, I can attest Italy sweltered under the sun with little rain in sight at July's end. It's no insult to call this political season for Pushkin and his fellow canines.


Candidates are wise to concentrate on their active party members. After all, turnouts for modern primaries hover lower than the 20 percent range; and most voting comes early and late. The few who bother pop in before work, and after; there's a sprinkling around the rush hour. Polling places suffer hours when registered people drift in and out, like will-of-the-wisps. Otherwise, they're bowling alleys without the pins and balls.


A long time ago, early in my life as a Frederick columnist, I muttered to friends and acquaintances staging the municipal races all by themselves made absolutely no sense. George Wenschhof did me one better; he shouted aloud, in his Air-It-Out-With-George column that the date should be changed to coincide with either state or national elections. I'm not really sure how his suggestion fell by the way.


It was a given local political stalwarts would object. Their feeling ran along the thought: Why fix anything that isn't broken? That's strictly from their view. They moan about how municipal elections would get lost in all the hubbub about Washington or Annapolis. They never mention how the different city primary day fundamentally aborts democracy. "It's their loss" does not begin to describe the damages to the absent citizens, when it would be so easy for officials to make the polling places available.


Only dictatorships achieve a maximum turn-out. I remember an Egyptian election when the local media bragged about the numbers that voted; it was something in the 96 percent range and Anwar Sadat received some 90 percent, according to the official count. The recent Iranian elections threaten to split the Islamic republic apart, because the incumbent president manipulated the results.


By and large, Americans quickly bore when the subject is politics. Their favorite officials are those who remain silent between elections. They don't mind being disturbed for good news, but they resent being told anything they do not want to hear: more taxes and increased restrictions on life. They've been known to boot the offenders from office; more than once.


Tucking city races among others would mean greater participation; it's that simple. With more voices heard, the community could know more about what people wanted. Furthermore, abolishing the separate elections would save money! That should be a clincher!


This column has dealt with matters that are known among all politicians, without doubts. Voters should demand officials make the switch-for cost, if nothing else.


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