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July 2, 2014

Voter Turnout and Castigating Annapolis

Blaine R. Young

The 2014 primary election is in the books, and I believe it was noteworthy on a few counts. Congratulations to the winners and to those whose came up short for a strong campaign.


There was a lot of talk about the expected turnout running up to the election – and afterwards. The Frederick News-Post ran its usual commentary decrying the voter counts, and implicitly criticizing people who did not choose to vote.


Although I believe fervently that voting is a civic duty, and that we owe it to all of those who have sacrificed to preserve our freedom, to get out and vote, particularly now that you can do it for a few weeks before the actual election day, I do not look down on those who think differently. The right to vote is sacred. With that comes the right to express oneself by not voting. Although I would never agree that that is the best, or even a preferred means of expression, those who do not vote are no less citizens of this county than those who do vote.


And one more comment on the turnout. I believe that the turnout on the Republican side was in excess of 30%. That to me is not too bad, considering that for the first time we had our primary in June, a date which is unfamiliar to everyone who has participated in the electoral process in the past.


And I don’t think I am alone in hating this June primary date. In the first place, spring and summer just do not feel like election season. I think that had a lot to do with the number of people who chose not to vote.


And I really don’t like the fact that we now have 4½ months between the primary and general elections. The old schedule, in which there were about seven/eight weeks between the two elections, felt much more reasonable. Not only will candidates continue electioneering, off and on until November 4th, but by the time the General Election is over and the political signs gradually are removed, we will have seen the same political signs in the same locations for almost a year. That is overkill.


And one final comment on the timing of this primary election. We were told in no uncertain terms by our so-called leaders in Annapolis that the June date was necessary because of new federal legislation which was designed to accommodate military personnel serving overseas, and ensure they had time to vote.


Yet I read in The Washington Post last week that a number of states retained their September primary dates. So, it looks like once again our “leaders” in state government were less than honest with us. They did not have to move the primary to June, and one has to wonder if – knowing that – they would have a lieutenant governor seeking to succeed a retiring two-term governor, they wanted to move the primary up in order to ease his path to victory. In any event, as a state we should seriously consider moving back to a September primary.


So, we now move into a summer-long General Election campaign, which will not end until the middle of autumn. I think this time should be used wisely by all candidates, and I would encourage as much public debate as is possible.


With the new council seats to be filled, and the first ever county executive to be chosen, and now that the number of candidates has been reduced to a manageable field, debates should be scheduled and people should pay attention. Hearing people respond in real time to questions concerning the future of our county is, again in my opinion, the best way to evaluate candidates for public office.


In that this election season has so many firsts for us, obviously no one knows how anything will turn out. But let’s get the process moving, keep it civil, and let the people make their choices. As candidates, that is our duty; and, as voters, it is our right and privilege.


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