An elec­tion for the his­tory books

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

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.

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