At the Westminster Senior and Community Center and the South Carroll Swim Club, voters lined up before 10 a.m. Thursday, eager to cast their ballots during the first day of early voting.
Bob Shirley, 83, of Westminster, was first in line to vote Thursday morning at the South Carroll Swim Club. Shirley, who is retired, said he’ll be out of town on Election Day on Nov. 6, and so he wanted to make sure he still got a chance to cast his vote.
“I’ve voted in every election since 1956 and I don’t want to break that record,” Shirley said.
Shirley was hardly the only one who came out early to vote. Election judge Bob Anderson said 51 people were in line at 10 a.m., when voting began. Twice that number were in line at the Westminster Senior and Community Center.
And by 1:45 p.m Thursday, numbers continued to rise. About 1,000 people had voted between the two locations by that point, Katherine Berry, the county’s election director, said via email. Of the nearly thousand voters, 645 voted in Westminster and 352 in South Carroll.
Numbers from the first half of Thursday had already surpassed those of the first day of early voting during the primary election, when 675 people came out. On the first day of early voting in the 2016 general election, Carroll saw 2,365 people come out. And in 2014 for the first day of the general election during the last gubernatorial race, 1,182 people turned out.
At the close of voting Thursday, 2,136 people had come out, Berry said via email. In Westminster, 1,468 voted, broken down into 839 Republicans, 475 Democrats and 154 from other affiliations. In South Carroll, 668 voted including 350 Republicans, 218 Democrats and 100 from other affiliations.
Early voting for the general election runs through Nov. 1. Polls are open each day, including Saturday and Sunday. Doors are open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
It’s important to get out and vote, Shirley said, because he feels like he should have some say in what happens.
Shirley said he was interested in just about all of the races, from the gubernatorial election to the local delegation race. For governor, he added, he’s supporting incumbent Gov. Larry Hogan.
But, Shirley said, in all of his decades voting, he’s cast ballots for different parties and men and women too.
“I always vote for people who I think would do the most for us and who have the same philosophies that I do,” Shirley said.
For Matthew and Julie Fenner, of Sykesville, the 2018 election couldn’t get here soon enough.
“We don’t like the state of the government and want to make sure our vote counts. We’ve been eagerly waiting for Oct. 25 to roll around,” Julie Fenner, 38, said, adding that it’ll be hard to wait until November to find out the results.
Matthew Fenner, 45, said the couple wants to see the current political landscape change, and that they want to be an active part of it, instead of complaining about what they do or do not like.
Matthew Fenner, who is a clinical research manager, said they’re interested in all of the races and have spent a lot of time the last few days learning more about the local election.
“This is the most we’ve ever cared about politics — the last two and a half years,” Julie Fenner, who works as an editor, said, laughing.
Matthew Fenner said now that the two have a young daughter, the local Board of Education race has more meaning to them. They didn’t used to think about that race much in previous years, but it’s become much more important now, he said.
The couple said they’d be voting for a lot of Democrats on the ballot, “which is amazing because I come from such a strong Republican family,” Matthew Fenner said.
But the current administration and political climate was “100 percent” a motivator for the pair to get out and vote, and to do so early, Julie Fenner said.
“We talk about the blue wave,” Matthew Fenner said. “We want to be a part of the blue wave.”
Miranda Merson, 19, of Eldersburg, also spoke about the blue wave.
“I know that Carroll County is predominantly very Republican, however there are people like me who are voting very Democratic,” she said, later adding, “Go blue wave.”
Merson said she was excited to vote Thursday because this was her first election, and she wants to make a difference, specifically “because of how things are in the country right now.”
“I remember when I was in fourth grade, [Barack] Obama was elected president and I saw kids in my class crying because they finally saw someone like them in the White House and that really left a very large impact on me,” she said.
Merson, a student at Carroll Community College, said to see things so different now, she knew the importance of voting. She said she hopes her vote brings back diversity and a better, happier place for everyone.
Francine and Levern McElveen, retirees who live in Manchester, stood at the back of a line that ran down the hall of the Westminster senior center as lunchtime approached.
Levern McElveen, 69, said all of the races were important to him, and that he came out Thursday because it’s a “civic duty.”
But the couple wasn’t just paying attention to Maryland races this year. Francine McElveen said she’s been watching key races in states like Georgia and Florida.
For Francine McElveen, 69, voting is especially important as an African-American woman.
“I think of the history of African-Americans having to vote [and] being disenfranchised,” she said. “Now we have an opportunity to make a difference.”
Frank Miller, 73, of Westminster, standing in line at the Westminster Senior Center Thursday, said he votes in every election.
“It’s the thing. If you’re an American you need to do it,” Miller, who’s retired, said, later adding, “I’m a reformed Democrat who’s now a Republican.”
Miller said he was voting for current Republican Sen. Justin Ready because he did him a favor once and current Gov. Larry Hogan, because he works with both Republicans and Democrats.
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“I think he’s trying to compromise between Democrats and Republicans. He’s really trying hard,” Miller said.