Lessons learned from primaries

With Maryland's 2014 primary election behind us, we get a break from those incessant political ads on television and radio.

We also won't have to look at that ugly sea of campaign placards littering lawns all over Reisterstown, Woodlawn and Owings Mills.

Given the fact that Maryland Democrats - 2,051,319 - far outnumber Republicans - 950,195 - and independents - 363,859 - November's general election won't be intense. Few races will be closely contested.

Three things are clear from this year's spring campaign.

First, Maryland's June primary - the earliest ever for a gubernatorial election - was a bummer.

Voter disinterest hit an all-time high. Apathy permeated the entire campaign.

Political leaders in Annapolis need to reconsider the timing of future primaries.

A June primary is a disservice to voters. An early September or late August primary would be far better.

Second, early voting continues to draw scant interest.

Yes, the number of people going to the polls prior to Election Day was up this year, but this still accounted for less than 5 percent of all registered voters.

A good sign was the number of people who showed up to vote early at the Randallstown Community Center. Through last Wednesday, Randallstown's polling place led all Maryland early-voting locations with 4,228 votes cast.

It's an indication of the growing importance of the African-American vote in Baltimore County.

State legislators need to step up to the plate if they want to seriously draw more voters to the polls earlier.

They must find the money to subsidize the opening of many more polling places in each county so voting becomes easier for people.

They also must extend voting hours.

This year, early voting commenced each day at 10 a.m. Anyone trying to vote before going to work or prior to starting the day's errands was turned away. That's a penny-wise, pound-foolish decision. It discourages voters from partaking of their civic duty.

Third, given the likely victory of Democrats in all major races in November, the June 24 primary marks the kickoff of Martin O'Malley's status as a lame-duck governor.

O'Malley has acknowledged this by scheduling frequent appearances at Democratic Party events around the country as he edges closer to declaring his presidential ambitions.

His lame-duck status will be exceedingly long.

While his likely successor develops plans for the new administration that commences in mid-January, O'Malley is still the state's boss running a $35 billion a year government with 80,000 workers.

This situation could turn awkward if tough decisions must be made before January on hot-button issues such as the state's deeply flawed health exchange and the state's growing budget deficit.

At that point people will wonder: who's in charge? The lame-duck governor or the governor-in-waiting?

It will be nearly seven months until the next Maryland governor is sworn in.

That's an extraordinary amount of time for an interregnum. It is unprecedented in this state.

Barry Rascovar can be contacted at brascovar@hotmail.com. His political musings can be found at politicalmaryland.com.

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