Important deadlines for the Nov. 8 presidential general election are approaching at 9 p.m this Tuesday, Oct. 18, the final day to register to vote, update an address and request an alternate polling place.
Maryland residents who are eligible to vote, but are not yet registered – including 17-year-olds who will turn 18 on or before Nov. 8, must be registered by the deadline in order to vote, according to an advisory from the Harford County Board of Elections.
This year's national election featuring Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton vying for the presidency is generating considerable interest, with some 140 million people combined watching the first two of three scheduled televised debates between the two major party candidates.
The judicious approach to the first political contest of Hogan's tenure reflects the governor's reluctance to appear partisan and his desire for voters to see him first as a leader, secondly by political party. "I don't think I have an obligation to elect Republicans," he said.
As of Wednesday, 185,396 Harford residents are registered to vote, including 79,329 Republicans, 67,930 Democrats, 35,351 unaffiliated and 2,786 affiliated with minor parties, Harford Deputy Elections Director Dale Livingston said. About 2,000 people have registered in Harford in the last month, based upon Wednesday's figures and those provided to The Aegis in early September.
Harford County residents with a Maryland driver's license or MVA-issued ID may register to vote or change their address online by the 9 p.m. Oct. 18 deadline here. Voters and members of the military, their spouses and dependents who are overseas and who do not have a Maryland driver's license or MVA-issued ID, may also register or change their address online.
Paper voter registration applications must be hand-delivered, or mailed to the Harford County Board of Elections, with a hand-delivered application received by 9 p.m. on Oct. 18 and a mailed application postmarked by Oct. 18.
How are you staying informed about the presidential contest? What do you think of the campaign? Have you decided how you will vote on Nov. 8?
In addition to the board of elections office in Forest Hill and Motor Vehicle Administration offices in Bel Air and elsewhere in the state, voter registration applications are available from Department of Health offices; local Department of Social Services offices; the Office on Aging; Division of Rehabilitation Services; public institutions of higher education; marriage license bureaus; post offices; public libraries; and the State Board of Elections.
Early voting will run from Thursday, Oct. 27, through Thursday, Nov. 3, at four Harford County locations: Bel Air's McFaul Activities Center, the University Center (formerly HEAT Center) in Aberdeen, the Edgewood Library and the Jarrettsville Library. Early voting centers are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day. According to elections officials, the best days to vote early and avoid delays are Saturday, Oct. 29, and Sunday, Oct. 30.
You can also register to vote during early voting. To make the voting process quicker, however, elections officials encourage Harford residents to register by this Tuesday. If you can't register by then, go to an early voting center in the county and bring a document that proves where you live. This document can be your MVA-issued license, ID card or change of address card or a paycheck, bank statement, utility bill or other government document with your name and new address.
Livingston, of the Harford elections board, stressed that you cannot register in person on General Election Day, only on early voting days.
Applications for absentee ballots are available online at harfordvotes.wordpress.com or can be picked up at the board of elections office at 133 Industry Lane in Forest Hill. Absentee ballot applications must be received by 5 p.m. on Nov. 4, Livingston said.
Most of Maryland's polling places are accessible to voters with disabilities. An elderly voter or a voter with a disability who is assigned to an inaccessible polling place may ask to be reassigned to an accessible polling place.
Three voters discuss who they voted for and why in Tuesday's Maryland Presidential Primary Election. (Bryna Zumer, Baltimore Sun Media Group)
On receipt of a timely request, the Harford County Board of Elections will review the request and determine whether there is an accessible polling place with the same ballot as the voter's home precinct and notify the voter of the status of his or her request.
During a lunch break this summer, Livingston and Elections Director Kevin Keene came up with the idea of breaking down each step of the voting process for those coming in and identifying it with brightly-labeled boards.
The four steps of voting are checking in (identified in blue), going to the ballot judge (in yellow), voting (in red) and scanning the ballot (in blue).
"I'm a 'continuous improvement' philosophy person," Keene explained while showing off the newly-made signs at the board's Forest Hill headquarters last month. "We want to make things easier for the voters and the judges. That's our job."
The board spent several hundred dollars to buy signs for the 62 polling places, and four early-voting sites, from the local company Allsigns, he said.
Staff members cut up PVC pipes to hold the signs, which will be placed near the appropriate sections in each polling site.
"One of our board members was talking [about], 'Yeah, when I walked into McFaul [Activity Center], it's a cavernous place and I was looking around, like, where [do I go]," he said, adding he personally votes at C. Milton Wright High School.
"When I go there, once you get in through the hallway and back to the gym, it's a big place, and the nice thing is, the judges are always [saying], 'Hey, over here,'" he said about judges' willingness to help. "We wanted to make it easier for the voter and, thereby, make it easier for the judges."
Keene said he hopes the "bright, vivid colors" will help during a presidential race that promises to be especially heated.
The boards include a "secret" fifth step: P, for provisional voting. Voters with provisional ballots will be directed to a special orange-coded table, and judges will be given an orange marker to stamp the provisional ballots and make the difference between them and regular ballots even clearer, Keene said.
"This election should be interesting. There's a lot of passion on both sides, a lot of contention, so voters are going to come in; there are going to be passionate voters coming in [looking determined], others are just going to saunter in, like they do, and the judges have to interact with all those people," Keene said. "They come in once every two years, get some training, and now they've got to go out and do this, so they've got to implement all these different skill sets to deal with the public."
The election will include a few other changes for Harford voters, such as those voting at the Churchville recreation complex being re-directed to the new building off Route 155, Livingston said. The building is being dedicated Wednesday.
The state's new paper-based voting system, introduced to Harford voters and those around in the primary election, is returning for the presidential election.
Voters will get paper ballots that they take, in a privacy sleeve, to the voting booth. They then bring the ballot to a tabulator that reads the votes and deposits them into a ballot box.