With so many important topics on the Nov. 6 general election ballot, Gail Carter, director of the Carroll County Board of Elections, expects a lot of Carroll County voters to head to the polls this year.
A high number of voters are always expected during a presidential election, Carter said. This year, however, a lot of voters have taken an interest in the four referendum questions (4 through 7) that will also appear on the ballot, she said.
The referendums are for Congressional redistricting, which shifts voting districts throughout the state; the DREAM Act, which gives illegal immigrants in-state tuition at community colleges and state universities; the Civil Marriage Protection Act, which allows for same-sex marriage, and expanded gambling, which allows a new casino in Prince George's County, as well as table games such as poker and roulette at gambling halls.
Tens of thousands of Maryland voters had to sign petitions in order for the issues to be placed on the November ballot.
The Times caught up with Carter, who has worked for the board of elections for 25 years, to ask her about her role in elections, voter turnout expectations and how politically active Carroll voters really are.
Q: What are your job responsibilities?
A: Conducting fair and impartial elections with the highest level of integrity. Coordinating the testing of voting equipment and poll books for accuracy. Establishing additional poll locations, including an early voting site. Overseeing voter registration, the absentee ballot process, hiring of election judges, supplies, delivery of equipment, all of which [are] an integral part of the election process.
Q: In your opinion, how politically active are Carroll County residents?
A: I believe with the large number of petition signatures that this office verified this election cycle residents are much more politically active than in past elections.
Q: What is the benefit of having early voting? Do Carroll residents take full advantage of early voting?
A: Early voting was implemented in 2010, this is the second election [since then] so the jury is still out. Early voting is an option to avoid long lines and it is an alternative to the absentee ballot process if voters are going to be away on Election Day. I hope for the general election more voters will take advantage of early voting. If they do, it will make the job of the hundreds of dedicated election judges less hectic on Nov. 6. Ask me in December.
Q: What kind of issues bring out a large number of voters for any given election?
A: Presidential elections historically have the largest turnout. Questions 4-7 appear to be of great interest to the voters so we expect a larger number of voters.
Q: What are the big issues on the ballot this election?
A: I believe the biggest issues will be questions 4 through 7. These questions were placed on the ballot by petition. Carroll County voters were among the largest number of petition signers in the state.
Q: How many people do you estimate will vote during the general election in Carroll? Is that more or less than previous elections?
A: Carroll County normally has a higher turnout than many other counties in the state. I estimate an 82 percent turnout, which is somewhat higher than past presidential elections.
Q: What advice would you give someone who is voting for the first time?
A: Review the specimen ballot you are being sent this week, which contains the summaries of the seven ballot questions. Being prepared to cast your ballot, whether a first-time voter or a seasoned voter, will make Election Day a memorable experience. Always remember your vote does count.