Editorial: Municipal residents should get informed, get out and vote

The season has begun. The candidates have officially filed, the campaign signs are going up and election dates for each of Carroll’s eight municipalities are drawing near.

Let the apathy begin.


That’s a cynical way to look at it and obviously we hope for an informed and engaged electorate with a strong turnout throughout Carroll County. But based on past data, that’s unlikely to happen.

Municipal elections occur every two years — in May of odd years such as 2019 — with either a mayor and two council seats or three council seats up for grab. It’s a critical day to the immediate future of those living within the municipalities of Hampstead, Manchester, Mount Airy, New Windsor, Sykesville, Taneytown, Union Bridge and Westminster.

Everyone gets exercised about presidential, congressional and gubernatorial elections and turnout is generally high for those. That’s good for the democracy, of course, although a case can be made the impact of one vote in those races is minimal and the impact of those offices on an individual is not heavily felt.

Neither argument can be made at the municipal level. A handful of votes can change elections, thereby potentially changing the course of one’s city or town, for better or worse, for two years. While the president and Congress will largely be stymied by checks and balances and while our governor and legislature will take turns making occasional headway, local elected officials will be doing things that affect everyday life.

Water and sewer decisions aren’t sexy. Zoning is often incomprehensible. Fixing potholes, hiring police chiefs, contemplating tiny tax hikes, none of it is captivating. But it’s all very relevant.

Thus, it’s discouraging to see roughly four of five registered voters ignore each municipal election.

Two years ago, Mount Airy had a robust 28.75 percent turnout and, throughout the county, roughly twice as many cast ballots as compared to 2015. But even a nice improvement meant Union Bridge and Sykesville had only about 15 percent turnout, which was still much higher than Westminster, which was under 10 percent. That’s right, with a contested mayoral race and three vying for two council seats, nine out of 10 Westminster residents stayed home, passing on their chance to influence the direction of their city.

We’re hoping turnout improves all over in 2019 and there’s reason to believe it could. While Manchester has a second consecutive uncontested election, the other seven municipalities have contested races.

In Taneytown (election on May 6), four are running for mayor and three for two council seats. In Mount Airy (May 6) and Sykesville (May 7), four are running for three council seats. In Hampstead (May 14), two are running for mayor and five for two council seats. In New Windsor (May 14), seven are running for three council seats. In Union Bridge (May 14), two are in the mayoral race and four in the race for two council seats. And in Westminster (May 14), six are vying for three council seats.

There are still five forums planned, giving interested voters the chance to get an unfiltered look at the municipal candidates. Meanwhile, voters can continue to get to know the issues and candidates in these pages and on our online election page as well as by accessing information on the Community Media Center website — including the recording of the Taneytown candidate forum held Monday. The future forums will be streamed and hosted there as well.

We urge everyone to do their research and then to their civic duty.