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Tomlinson: Carroll County handled election well, though in-person voting remains ideal

In 1979, AT&T launched its “Reach Out And Touch Someone” ad campaign to encourage people to reconnect via telephone. Today, we are discouraged from reaching out and touching someone for public health reasons, making June 2 an Election Day like no other.

For the first time ever, Carroll County held a limited in-person election with the majority of voters mailing in ballots or dropping them off in one of the three designated drop boxes. As of Friday afternoon, the local Board of Elections says that 37,004 ballots were cast with 1,183 of the votes cast in person.

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Carroll typically has 36 voting precincts open on Election Day, but on Tuesday only two at-large precincts were available for in-person voting: the Westminster Senior and Community Center and the South Carroll Swim Club. I spent Tuesday at the Westminster location helping local candidates greet voters and garner some last-minute support. Board of Education candidates Donna Sivigny and Marsha Herbert, and Circuit Court judge candidates, Judge Richard Titus and Laura Morton, were there all day and had surrogates at the South Carroll precinct.

Most voters arrived prepared to vote for his or her party’s choice for president, but many were undecided regarding the local races. Candidates at the Westminster polling place were able to secure some last-minute votes by personally reaching out to folks heading to the polls. One voter decided to vote for Titus after asking him what the difference was between the Circuit and District courts. When one voter asked me what I knew about Herbert, I was pleased to introduce that voter to the candidate.

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After months of social distancing, voters were enthused to vote in person. Despite the pandemic, Carroll residents were excited to chat and mingle before voting. Many voters made it a point to say that it was his or her responsibility as an American to show up and vote on Election Day, despite the ability to submit ballots through the mail or dropoff locations. A large number of voters dropped off their ballot at the Westminster dropbox on Election Day due to concerns about using the U.S. Postal Service.

Some voters said they had to vote in person because they never received a ballot in the mail. As previously reported by the Carroll County Times, the county’s election director, Katherine Berry, said that voters should have contacted the Board of Elections if he or she never received a ballot via mail. Berry mentioned that this was communicated through numerous news releases, advertising, social media and newspaper articles.

It is noteworthy that of the 1,183 voters who voted in person, 78% were Republicans and 17% were Democrats. Although Republicans outnumber Democrats in Carroll County by a 2-to-1 margin, these numbers clearly illustrate that Republicans in Carroll County were overwhelmingly more inclined to vote on the actual Election Day and not by mail-in ballot.

With the State of Maryland only being in Phase I of the governor’s “Roadmap to Recovery” at the time of the election, there were no post-election watch parties to attend that night. Additionally, it was difficult to celebrate any of the results that were released later that evening because there were still thousands of mail-in ballots to count. Complete election results are planned to be released this Friday, June 12.

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Based on the results reported so far, Sivigny and Herbert are neck-and-neck in the quest to earn the title of top vote-getter. Either way, both of these women, along with Virginia Harrison and Stephanie Brooks, are on track to move on to the general election to battle it out for two spots. In the race for Circuit Court judge, it appears likely that Judge Titus will win the Republican primary and Laura Morton will win the Democratic primary, and the two will face off in November’s election.

Overall, the new election process has gone rather smoothly in Carroll County. The same cannot be said for the rest of Maryland.

In Baltimore City, the local Board of Elections has fallen terribly behind. About 43% of mailed ballots in the city had been received as of Friday. The released results are just a fraction of the final election results. On the state level, due to several issues surrounding the primary, State Administrator of Elections Linda Lamone is in the hot seat. At Wednesday’s Maryland Board of Public Works meeting, Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford asked Lamone to resign and Comptroller Peter Franchot suggested she retire.

Even with Carroll County’s Board of Elections pulling off this primary election with little to complain about, I hope that in November things return to normal and that all voters are able to go to the polls and get up close and personal with those running for office.

Christopher Tomlinson, a member of the Carroll County Republican Central Committee, writes from Melrose. Email him at CCTtomlinson@gmail.com.

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