An election for the history books
Early voting numbers are already setting records in Maryland, including right here in Charles County.
On the first day alone, last Thursday, the state election board reported record-breaking figures topping 122,880. A total of 3,872 of those early voters were from Charles.
These are impressive stats. Almost everyone who visited the county voting booths last week would have experienced a line to cast their ballots, which at its peak nearly wound around the La Plata Firehouse. There were many white voters, and many black voters; there were young voters, seniors and everyone in between. It was American democracy at its finest.
That’s not to say it wasn’t without its hiccups. In neighboring St. Mary’s County, Sen. Steve Waugh (R-Calvert, St. Mary’s) reported there was one instance in which a voter told him she used the electronic ballot marking device instead of the new standard paper ballot, and claimed the machine changed which candidate she selected for president. However, election officials in St. Mary’s said she never voiced her complaint while voting, and that with the number of checkpoints a voter must go through with an electronic ballot, this type of error is essentially “impossible.”
Although it was only one incident, it spurred a social media panic last Thursday — a panic that was largely unnecessary. Waugh later took to Twitter to clarify that voters can request the electronic ballot if they are handicapped or visually impaired, and that they “can double check the electronic ballot marking device on the screen, and triple check it on the printed ballot,” before officially submitting it.
But on the whole, the system appears to be working with no major glitches so far, and that’s especially important during this particular election, in which a major party’s presidential nominee has suggested the process might be “rigged” and that voter fraud is rampant in certain areas of the country. This kind of talk has caused suspicions to work their way down into local communities, and voters currently seem more distrusting than perhaps ever before of our electoral system, of government in general and of the media’s reporting on this election.
Yet that also may be the very reason we’re seeing such large voter turnout already this fall. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has awakened voters with fiery opinions that a significant segment of the nation’s population share — and that many Americans have made it clear they do not share, at all. He’s a candidate people either love or hate. Whether they’re flocking to the polls to vote for or against him, they’re doing so in droves.
And that’s not to say his Democratic opponent is fueling voter turnout for any different reasons. Hillary Clinton, while polling ahead of Trump, is also widely disliked by many voters. There may be just as many citizens eager to vote against her as there are those who en- thusiastically support her and the idea of electing her as the nation’s first female commander in chief.
Regardless of whether solid support for one candidate or strong opposition for the other is what’s driving voters this election, the 2016 presidential race has already proven to be unique, and the surge of voters desiring to make their voice heard early is almost indisputably a direct reflection of that. It will be interesting to see, when all is said and done and a clear winner has surfaced, what the final voter demographics were across the nation as well as in Charles County.
The last day to vote early is tomorrow, Nov. 3, at the La Plata Firehouse at 911 Washington Ave., or the St. Charles Gleneagles Community Center at 4900 KirkCaldy Court in Waldorf. Stop by any time from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Or, vote on Election Day, Nov. 8, at your designated polling place or the election board. Find your polling place on the election board page of the county website at www. charlescountymd.gov/boe/welcome.