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Our View: Vote-by-mail in Maryland primary should increase turnout

We would be only a few days away from Maryland’s primary election if not for the novel coronavirus. As it is, the primary was delayed and Maryland will be having its first vote-by-mail election. There will be very limited in-person voting on June 2 at only two sites in Carroll and social distancing guidelines will be enforced. Voting by mail is strongly encouraged. We believe it will be safe and a tremendous boon for turnout.

Even when a pandemic isn’t raging, primary elections don’t exactly bring out the voters. Two years ago, fewer than 25,000 ballots were cast out of more than 120,000 registered voters in Carroll County. Traditionally, presidential election primaries get far better turnout, but it’s hard to imagine Republicans or Democrats were going to come out in droves given that both races are essentially over. But even in 2016, when both presidential nominations were still in doubt, well under half of Carroll’s registered voters cast ballots.

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And, those without a horse in the race, don’t vote. Only about 3% of those who weren’t registered as Republicans or Democrats turned out in 2018. It was just over 4% in 2016. And the number of unaffiliated voters is not small. There are some 25,000 Carroll countians who are not Democrats or Republicans that are eligible to vote in nonpartisan races, such as Board of Education, but overwhelmingly do not.

It’s disappointing but somewhat understandable that primary turnout is low. It has meant physically getting to a voting site on a specific date, possibly missing work time, potentially dragging children along — to vote in an election that decides only who moves on to the next round. This year, none of those impediments is in place.

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According to Carroll County Elections Director Katherine Berry, all active voters will be mailed a ballot in early May. Instructions will be included as to how voters should secure their ballot once it is voted, making sure to sign the outer envelope that has the voter’s oath, and how to get the ballot back to the Carroll County Board of Elections. The envelope for the voted ballot will have prepaid postage so it can be mailed for free.

Or, it can be inserted into one of three drop boxes that will be accessible 24 hours per day, seven days a week from May 21 through June 2. The drop boxes will be located at the Westminster Senior Center, 125 Stoner Avenue, Westminster; the Robert Moton Center, 300 S. Center Street, Westminster; or the South Carroll Swim Club, 1900 W. Liberty Road.

In addition to the presidential election, the top four vote-getters among Stephanie Brooks, Virginia Harrison, Marsha Herbert, Mary Kowalski and Donna Sivigny will move on to the Board of Education general election, Republicans and Democrats will select delegates to their respective national conventions, and voters can select Laura Morton, George Psoras Jr. or Richard Titus for Circuit Court judge.

There are also congressional races. In District 1, Democrats will choose from Allison Galbraith, Mia Mason and Jennifer Pingley while Republicans will choose from Jorge Delgado and Andy Harris. In District 8, Democrats will choose from Marcia H. Morgan, Utam Paul, Jamie Raskin, and Lih Young while Republicans will choose from Gregory Thomas Coll, Bridgette L. Cooper, Nicholas Gladden, Patricia Rogers, Shelly Skolnick and Michael Yadeta.

We urge everyone to make sure they are registered to vote at voterservices.elections.maryland.gov/VoterSearch and confirm their physical address and mailing address are correct. Then, be on the lookout for the ballot in the mail, fill it out and send it in. Any voter who hasn’t received a ballot by mid-May should call 410-386-2080 or email ccboe@carrollcountymd.gov.

Voting is free and, this time, involves no travel time and barely any effort. It is a right and we consider it a duty.

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