Low but steady early turnout starts off Bel Air's Election Day

Turnout at the polls in Bel Air was low but steady on Election Day Tuesday, as voters came to Town Hall in ones and twos to cast their ballots in this year's election for town commissioner.

Turnout at the polls in Bel Air was low but steady on Election Day Tuesday, as voters came to Town Hall in ones and twos to cast their ballots in this year's election for town commissioner.

The five candidates who are running for three seats on the Board of Town Commissioners – incumbent Commissioner Susan Burdette, plus newcomers Phil Einhorn, Brendan Hopkins, Diane Simmons and Hunter Smith – and their supporters stood on the sidewalk along North Hickory Avenue near Town Hall, talking with voters.


"I've seen 50, tops, since 7 a.m.," Barbara Hersl, of Bel Air, said around 9:20 a.m. She and her husband, Jerome, were representing Harford Campaign 42, an organization dedicated to getting more women and minorities elected to local offices in Harford County.

The number 42 comes from uniform number of the Baseball Hall of Fame member and Brooklyn Dodger player Jackie Robinson, according to the organization's literature. In 1947, Robinson became the first African-American player to break Major League Baseball's color line, a segregation policy in the game's professional ranks that had excluded black players since the late 1800s.

Harford Campaign 42 representatives handed out literature to Bel Air voters encouraging them to support the two female candidates, Burdette and Simmons.


Burdette is the only female member of the current five-person town board. The board will see a significant turnover after Tuesday's election, as long-serving commissioners Robert Reier and Edward Hopkins didn't seek re-election and will leave the board when their terms end later this month.

"I've seen a big abundance of women voters out over men," Hersl said. "That's what we're out for, diversity in government."

Elections officials reported 103 ballots had been cast as of 11 a.m. The polling place at Town Hall will remain open until 8 p.m. Tuesday. There are approximately 7,300 registered voters in Bel Air, according to Harford County Board of Elections data.

"It's been consistent, it's been steady," Priscilla Jindra, a chief election judge, said. "We always hope for high numbers."

Ann Weaver, 86, and her husband Edwin, 87, visited the polls Tuesday morning and chatted briefly with the candidates on the sidewalk.

"I've live in Bel Air all of my life, and I've voted every year," Ann Weaver said after casting her ballot.

She said voters "have to decide who's going to represent us."

"We have to do our part," Weaver added.

Keith Powell, 59, said he thinks "it's our obligation to vote."

"I just think if you don't vote, you're basically saying you don't care what happens," Powell, a local attorney and member of the town's Planning Commission, said. "I care what happens."

Two other active Bel Air residents, Peter and Sandy Schlehr, brought their 17-month old granddaughter Carlin to the polls.

Peter Schlehr, 67, the brother of former Town Administrator Chris Schlehr, is a member of the Planning Commission, and Sandy Schlehr, also 67, serves on the Cultural Arts Commission.

"We've lived in town for over 40 years," Peter said. "We're both involved with the town – this is where we live."

Sandy said she does not think she and her husband have missed voting in any elections.

"We haven't missed any in 40 years," Peter confirmed.

Their granddaughter laughed and smiled as she sat in her stroller outside the polling place, playing with an "I Voted" sticker given to each person who casts a ballot.

"I don't think she's aware of the experience now," Peter said. "We'll look back on it, and maybe we'll instill in her a desire to vote when she comes of age."

Doris Magness Cunningham, 81, visited the polls with her daughter Kim Cunningham Ill, 57, and her great-granddaughter Olivia, who is 18 months old.


The precocious toddler, who goes by Livi, also had her own "I Voted" sticker.

Cunningham, who has lived in the Bel Air South area for most of her life and moved into the town three years ago, said she votes "for the good of the town."

"I have a real big interest in the [community], since I've lived here all my life," she said.

"When we took Livi in [the polling place] we said, 'we get to vote in this country, not every country gets to do that," Ill said.

The voters said they were happy with how the current group of commissioners have performed, and they lauded Bel Air's quality of life.

"I travel extensively, and there isn't any other small town in America that I would rather live in than the Town of Bel Air," Peter Schlehr said. "We're here for the duration."

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