There were few surprises in local Carroll County races in the primary election, as many incumbents easily turned away primary challenges. But what else did we learn? Here are our five key takeways from the Carroll County primary results.
1. Voter turnout in Carroll was down
When even winning candidates expressed disappointment in the turnout during Tuesday’s primary election, it’s clear voter participation was lacking.
Only 23,862 ballots were cast during early voting and on election day. That’s just under 20 percent of Carroll’s registered voters, with absentee and provisional ballots still to be counted. Four years ago, the last time a Maryland gubernatorial primary was held, 28,955 votes were cast, meaning 25.32 percent of registered voters cast ballots. In the gubernatorial primary before that one, in 2010, 31.37 percent of registered voters cast ballots.
The odd part was that early voting increased by 13 percent over the last gubernatorial primary, held in 2014. Despite good weather on election day and several contests that seemed to be important to Carroll residents, turnout on Tuesday was down more than 5,000 voters from 2014.
For example, considering all the comments made on social media and at public events regarding the Board of Education in the wake of three schools being closed in 2016, it figured the BOE race would be of extraordinarily high interest. Instead, in a race that allows voters to opt for up to three candidates, only 54,195 votes for BOE candidates have thus far been tallied. In 2014, with fewer registered voters in the county and seemingly fewer hot-button issues, there were 68,652 votes in the BOE race. Similarly, ballots cast in each of the five commissioner districts was down significantly compared to 2014.
2. District 3 commissioner may yet come down to provisional, absentee ballots
At the moment, incumbent Dennis Frazier appears to have held off challenger Tom Gordon in the Republican primary for the District 3 seat on the Carroll County Board of Commissioners. With just 59 votes separating the two, provisional and absentee ballots could potentially make a difference.
Frazier, however, paced slightly ahead of Gordon the entire night as results rolled in. Provisional ballots were up almost 100 from the last commissioners race in 2014, attributable to a computer glitch with the Motor Vehicle Adminsitration and the State Board of Elections.
The first round of absentee ballots will be counted Thursday, June 28. The provisional ballot canvas is Thursday, July 5, and the second and final absentee ballot canvas is Friday, July 6.
3. Race to determine Circuit Court judge extends to November
Elections for Judge of the Circuit Court are done differently than how most primary races typically work. Rather than having a nonpartisan race or separate partisan races, candidates for judge are cross-filed under the two major parties and appear on both ballots.
Had any of the three candidates been the top vote-getter for both parties, that individual would have essentially won the seat on the bench, being the only candidate to appear on the general election ballot.
Despite sitting Judge Richard Titus being the top overall vote-getter with 9,183, because former senior assistant state’s attorney Maria Oesterreicher had the most votes from the Democrats, the two will face off again in November. Both will appear on the ballot without party affiliation listed.
4. Opposition to Trump hasn’t soured Carroll on Hogan
There is little doubt that Carroll County voters will overwhelmingly support Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, in November against Democrat Ben Jealous. But the Carroll County for Trump contingent had been trying to send a message that they find the Hogan camp too liberal at times and express displeasure with Hogan distancing himself from -- if not outright opposing -- the Republican president.
The Carroll for Trump group had asked voters to lodge a “protest vote” against Hogan, who was running unopposed in the primary, by not filling in the bubble next to Hogan’s name. Only 788 Carroll voters did so, or about 5 percent, of the 15,219 Republicans who cast ballots.
Trump supporters had also suggested a “single shot” for David Ellin, who was running for House of Delegates in District 5, against the Hogan-backed team of incumbents Susan Krebs, Haven Shoemaker and April Rose. The incumbents each received more than twice the votes of Ellin.
5. Name recognition beats experience down ballot
Voters often aren’t motivated to come out to choose the Clerk of the Circuit Court or other down ballot races, which can lead to voters picking based on name recognition.
Heather DeWees — who is well-known in the community as a teacher, basketball coach, community service and the wife of Sheriff Jim DeWees — won 41 percent of the vote to defeat Missi Green, who was been senior supervisor of court operations for the past decade. In the general election, DeWees will now face Democrat Terrie Connelly, who ran unopposed in the primary. Connolly is the senior supervisor of court operations of the Criminal, Juvenile and Civil departments.