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On an Election Day made unusual by COVID-19, some Carroll County voters appreciate in-person option

South Carroll Swim Club served as one of Carroll County’s two in-person voting centers Tuesday, and while the rescheduled primary election was held almost entirely by mail or dropoff, that didn’t keep people from venturing out to cast a ballot.

“I was prepared to stand in line for hours if we had to. Seriously,” Eldersburg resident Don Bonchack said. “Definitely don’t like voting by mail now. Will not do it.”

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Bonchack came to the swim club at about noon and was met by a small group of campaign volunteers holding signs. More than one voter thanked the people holding signs for coming out in person Tuesday, and Bonchack spent a few minutes chatting with one of the county deputies who was on site.

“Everything is good. I love seeing law enforcement here,” Bonchack said. “I went over to make sure he knew I had his back. I appreciate him, appreciate law enforcement right now.”

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The ballot features primaries for the Carroll County Board of Education, for judge of the Circuit Court of Carroll County, representatives for the 1st and 8th congressional districts, and U.S. president. The school board and judgeship primaries will each eliminate one candidate from the general election in November.

Donna Sivigny, Marsha B. Herbert, Stephanie R. Brooks, Mary Kowalski, and Virginia R. Harrison are running for one of four spots on the November ballot for the school board. And attorneys Laura Morton and George Psoras and Judge Richard Titus are vying for two spots in the general election.

Crowds were sparse Tuesday morning, with the polls opening at 7 and set to close at 8 p.m.

Katherine Berry, election director for the Carroll County Board of Elections, said after voting centers closed at 8 p.m. that 475 people had voted in person at South Carroll Swim Club and 758 had voted at the Westminster Senior and Community Center. On Monday, the county received 646 ballots via drop-off boxes according to Berry’s totals.

Berry said there was “a fair amount” of people voting in person or using the dropbox at the Westminster location at 7:30 p.m. About 340 ballots were collected from that dropbox about two hours earlier.

The primary was planned for April 28 before Gov. Larry Hogan pushed the date back amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Voting center officials wore masks Tuesday, as did voters who made their way inside to cast their ballots. There weren’t lines long enough at either polling site to prevent adequate social distancing.

“I appreciate the opportunity to vote in-person,” said Maria Burness of Mount Airy, who came to South Carroll Swim Club on Tuesday morning. “It was well organized.”

Westminster resident Tara Duvall used the dropoff box in front of the senior center building for her family’s ballots. Duvall said she was out running errands Tuesday afternoon and decided to do it out of convenience.

“This is where I normally vote,” Duvall said. “I was dropping [off] mine, my husband’s, and my son’s ― first-time voter. My husband was the one that preferred that they be dropped off. His feeling was that, not that he thought there was going to be any tampering ... but he wanted to know that he physically took it, or someone in his family physically took it to the box.”

Suzette Blake, who recently moved to Westminster from Massachusetts, said she did what she could to research the candidates and made a point to show up Tuesday before finding out she had already made her vote official via mail.

“I didn’t have any problems, everyone was very helpful, very sweet and kind,” Blake said. “They were willing to help me. ... I did what I could with the time that I had.”

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It seemed like an ordinary voting day for people such as Bonchack.

“Nothing different on it. A lot of people don’t vote primary, I always have,” he said. “... It’s our right and our responsibility to be here, so we’re going to do it.”

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