This Tuesday, as voters head down to the polls to cast their votes in the general election, they'll be participating in a long history of Carroll County enfranchisement; however, Westminster's earliest voters had an added incentive to participate in the electoral process.
According to photographs from the Historical Society of Carroll County, in the 1800s, following city elections, the residents of Westminster would gather and watch as the political loser pushed the victor down the length Main Street in a wheelbarrow. The city's first burgess was James M. Shellman, elected in 1839. Francis Shriver, burgess between 1853 and 1856, became the city's first mayor in 1856. As election day approaches, let's take a look at some of Carroll's history with the voting process.
Women's suffrage in Carroll County
In 1913, the Just Government League of Carroll County, a women's suffrage group, was formed to fight for women's right to vote in the state. The group initially consisted of 11 women, and after an initial meeting in the Opera House in Westminster, the group began to travel across the county, holding meetings in Taneytown, Uniontown, New Windsor, Sandymount and Sykesville. Members included Westminster High School principal Charles Kolb and Dr. O. E. Tiffany of Western Maryland College. Together the group handed out literature and petitioned president Woodrow Wilson. By the end of their first year, the group had grown to 89 members. Despite the group's efforts, it wasn't until the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920 that Carroll women were granted the right to vote.
According to the Maryland State Board of Elections, Carroll voters have only chosen the statewide winning governor twice in the past 28 years. In 1986, William Donald Schaefer defeated Thomas Mooney in a historic race which saw Schaefer win with the largest percentage in Maryland history, taking home 80 percent of the vote. This election would be the last time Carroll countians collectively chose a Democratic candidate in a gubernatorial race. It wouldn't be until Republican candidate Robert Ehrlich went up against Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in 2002 that Carroll County voters supported a winning candidate in the state.
According to Corynne Courpas, of the Carroll Media Center, when she first moved to the area, she was surprised by the cross-aisle friendliness between the two major political parties in Carroll.
"The one thing that I thought was really interesting back in the '70s here was that every year following the elections, the Democrats and the Republicans used to watch the returns together," Courpas said. "That was back when the parties got along and there wasn't much animosity. We would pat each other on the back and tell each other 'better luck next time.' Even back then, I always thought that was very unique to this area."
Number of eligible voters
Over the past several years, Carroll has gained eligible voters each election season, with 105,201 people registered in 2010, 110,400 in 2012 and 112,946 in 2014. Of Carroll's registered voters, there are 58,969 registered Republicans and 31,084 registered Democrats.
According to the state board of elections, 53 percent of eligible voters turned up to cast their ballots in the 2010 general elections. This number jumped to 79.5 in 2012, likely due to the inclusion of the presidential race.
Computer voting and recount issues
As the 2000 presidential election between Al Gore and George W. Bush exhibited, calling a recount can provide shockwaves through an entire community. In Maryland, a recount petition must be filed within three days of the results of an election and specify the precincts included in the recount. If the recount results in a change of victor, the opposing candidate may file a counter-petition for a secondary recount.
Following 2001 legislation that mandated a uniform election system, Maryland voting transformed from paper ballots to the established direct recording electronic voting system. In the computer era, a recount isn't as simple as tallying all of the votes a second time. The person demanding a recount must choose one of four technical options for the process. These processes include a manual recount of the reports printed on election day; a re-upload of the memory cards involved; a manual recount of archived data from each election machine; or a manual recount of the ballot images stored on each machine.
The person asking for a recount is responsible for the cost of the process, unless the outcome is changed, they gain more than 2 percent of the total votes or the margin of difference is .1 percent or less of the total votes.
Carroll's polls will be open Tuesday, Nov. 4 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. For more information on polling locations, visit the Carroll County Board of Elections at ccgovernment.carr.org/ccg/elections or call 410-386-2080.