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In Carroll County, voters warm up to a cool election day

Westminster precinct reports heavy, and steady, turnout

By Kevin Dayhoff, kevindayhoff@gmail.com

10:11 PM EST, November 6, 2012

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It was almost anti-climactic at the polls in Westminster on Tuesday afternoon.

After a year of robo-calls, tons of campaign literature, debates and nonstop news coverage, election day came to Carroll County — and the turnout was heavy and steady.

Just after 4 p.m., as temperatures dropped, there were plenty of hardy campaign workers at the polls at Westminster Elementary School. Joy Fisher and Erin Snell and Jennifer and Molly Harvilak were busy greeting voters and handing out literature in support of Question 6, the Civil Marriage Protection Act.

"Been here since the morning — and we're cold," Fisher said in between shivers.

"Lots of interest and thumbs-up, and folks saying 'we're with you,' "added Snell, who was bundled up for the day's work.

"People have been very nice, even if they have not been in support. Folks have really friendly and respectful," said Jennifer Harvilak.

Donna Kronner was also at Westminster Elementary, waving a sign in support of Daniel Bongino, Republican candidate running for the U.S. Senate in Maryland. Bongino "is a great guy," said Kronner with some excitement.

Voter turn-out has been "great," Kronner said.

"They are in there maybe 10 minutes most and right back out," she added.

"Everyone seems in good spirits, in spite of the cold. Very positive," said Kronner as she broke away to hand campaign literature to a voter.

Down the sidewalk and closer to the entrance of the school, Girl Scouts and their mothers were using the opportunity to sell eight flavors of Girl Scout cookies and doing a brisk business.

As the dinner hour approached, the crowds grew steadily as a constant stream of voters headed for the entrance of the school.

Inside the building was warm — to the delight of voters.

The line began just past the school lobby and extended all the way up the hall to the auditorium, but moved quickly.

It took about 15 minutes to arrive at the election judges' tables.

Many of the judges were regulars who had done the job for many years.

Jay Voight, one of the chief judges, said that as of 4:16 p.m., 2,190 people — or 47 percent of the eligible voters in that Westminster precinct — had voted.

"Lunch time was light. This morning was heavy and about 3:30 p.m., it started to pick up again," Voight said.

There were 21 voting stations at the precinct, and that helped move the line quickly.

"It has not been taking folks long to vote," Voight said. "There has been no problems and the (electronic registration and voting) system has been great."

As darkness fell, Larry Houser stood at the end of the sidewalk with a sign promoting Jim Doolan, a candidate for the Carroll County Board of Education. Houser said he really didn't mind the cold that much; he was excited about Doolan's run for school board.

"This morning I was over at (the polling place at) Robert Moton (Elementary School,)" said Houser. "It was busy. Turnout has been terrific. Seems even busier here."

Houser was impressed with the number of voters and how they took their responsibilities seriously. He said he had received good questions from folks who seemed to have done their homework.

"I just think that it is terrific that so many folks are coming out to vote. It's heartwarming and makes you feel proud," he said.

'Important to exercise that right'

Elsewhere around the county, voters reflected on the importance of the 2012 vote. Many voters in south-central Carroll simply felt it was their duty to participate in the process and have their voices heard.

"I voted because I was concerned about the direction that the United States is taking," said Greg Winkler, of Sykesville. "There were two questions on the ballot that I was more concerned with than the others: the change in the marriage laws, and the gaming."

Winkler wasn't the only voter with an opinion on marriage equality, which was signed into law by Gov. Martin O'Malley in the spring.

"I wanted to show my support for a lot of people who are of the gay persuasion," said Sarah Brannon, of Sykesville. "And I have a really good feeling that the person that I chose for president would be re-elected."

Holly Raub, also of Sykesville, was voting in her first election, and appreciated the chance to vote on the ballot questions.

"They're all pretty important, but Question 6 was a big one for me," Raub said. "I'm glad we had the chance to vote on all of them."

Raub's mother-in-law, Eileen Deboer, was clearly motivated as she exited the polling location at Liberty High School.

"I always vote, because it's important to exercise that right," Deboer said. "I'm very fearful of a Romney-appointed Supreme Court. I think it's important to make sure that we have a Democratic House and Congress, in order to support this president. And Question 6 is very important, because it signifies equality for all."

Jeff Reed looked at the total picture, not just the top of the ticket.

"Maryland is very blue, and we know which way the presidential vote will go," he said. "But we still want to cast our vote. And there are a lot of ballot questions, plus a Senator and a House representative to elect. I voted against the map (the Question 4 congressional redistricting), because it looks like a kindergarten finger-painting."

Reed's wife, Michelle, was disappointed that neither Presidential candidate campaigned in Maryland.

"I have a problem that the election is not truly one person, one vote," she said. "I feel that Ohio, Colorado and Pennsylvania matter more than we do here in Maryland, because of the Electoral College. I hope, but I can't say, that I made a whole lot of difference."

While most voters acknowledged that President Obama would win the state vote, they were generally more positive about Republican candidate Mitt Romney's national outlook compared with John McCain's uphill battle in 2008.

"I think Romney has a much better chance," said Jason Deckelbaum of the Gamber-Finksburg area. "I didn't think that anybody that ran against Obama (in 2008) could have won. He had that 'change and hope' message going for him. America saw somebody that looked like a savior."