Election 2018: Voting in Carroll County brisk, deemed 'a referendum' on President Trump

NOTE: The Times’ coverage from Carroll County polling places will be updated through Election Day, Nov. 6.

As of 4 p.m., Katherine Berry, Carroll County’s election director, said via email that roughly 38,000 people had voted so far on Tuesday, with 35 of 36 precincts reporting.

Including the nearly 17,000 who cast ballots during the eight-day early voting period, roughly 55,000 people had voted in the 2018 election with about 4 hours left to cast ballots. That’s about 10,000 less than the total number of people who voted in the last gubernatorial race in 2014, which was 64,103 people — or 60.93 percent of eligible, active voters.

This election’s numbers are about 35,000 less than 2016 presidential election numbers in Carroll, which came in at 92,476 — or 77.65 percent of voters.

Election results here »

Michael Shaeffer, 53, of Union Bridge was at Francis Scott Key High School voting Tuesday evening.

Shaeffer, who said he’s self-employed, was most interested in the governor’s race.

He voted for Gov. Larry Hogan, “because I’m a Republican,” Shaeffer said, adding, “I don’t like [Ben] Jealous.”

Shaeffer said he always votes, because it’s a right. “I vote every election, local, state, whatever it is, I vote.”

“My kids are in school and I want to make sure they get what’s best for them,” Dwayne Keilman, said.

His daughter is 9 and his son is 8, he said. But although he wanted to make sure to vote for the Board of Education race, Keilman said the governor’s race was most important to him.

“I want to make sure Hogan gets re-elected,” he said. "And I'm for Trump. Right now in the media a lot of coverage on the liberal side overshadows Republicans. I want to make sure the quiet is heard too.”

Kristi Keilman said the main reason she came out was for her daughter.

“My 15-year-old daughter just wrote a paper about how over 50 percent of people who are eligible to vote don’t,” she said. “I can’t wait to take a picture of my ‘I Voted’ sticker and send it to her.”

At William Winchester Elementary, Chief Judge Steve Hinerman said there have been no issues with polls so far even though more than 1,800 people came to cast their ballots before 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018.

"It's a huge turnout," he said. "I think we are expecting 60 percent.

"It's been nonstop," said Hinerman. "Right out the gate this morning there were 50 people in line. I was here for the primary election and it was 18 percent. People are really energized for this election."

Joe Pence, of Hampstead, was glad to see the issue of gambling revenue and school funding on the ballot.

“It’s been told to us that it was going to happen for years and years,” he said after voting at Hampstead Elementary School Tuesday.

Bob Anderson, a chief election judge at Carroll Lutheran Village, said while there was a lull right now — only a handful of people were voting just after 3 p.m. — this morning was very busy.

As of 3:15 p.m., 400 people had voted, which is nearly half of the 840 that were registered there as of June, Anderson said. When the polling place opened, Anderson said, there were lines throughout the room and at every station, from checking in to getting a ballot to voting and processing ballots. And, he said, the rain wasn't stopping turnout.

“Even when it was raining this morning ... people were waiting in here and water was rolling off their jackets but they were here because they wanted to vote,” Anderson said.

There were two big differences between voting at Liberty High School, in Eldersburg, in 2016 and on Tuesday, according to voter Dawn Pritchard — the turnout and the tone.

“Everything seems a bit more relaxed this time around. I don’t feel like there’s as much tension in the air,” she said, nothing that in 2016 “there were some very aggressive car signs, there were some things written on their trucks and cars that were kind of mean-spirited.”

Pritchard was one of more than 700 people who had come to Liberty to cast their ballot before lunchtime, according to Chief Election Judge Gary Green.

“We did a public count at the standing units at the time of about 11 a.m.; it was 712 people had come in at that point,” he said. “At opening, we had a line that was 30 minutes in length. I think we had only one lull period around 9 a.m. this morning. It’s been going like gangbusters.”

Support for Larry Hogan was strong among the two voters, out of 21 asked, who were willing to comment on the election.

“Gov. Hogan, he’s done a hell of a job,” said Doug Priddy, a Democrat. “The governor’s race was pretty important.”

Pritchard is an independent, but said Hogan’s willingness to distance himself, at times, from President Donald Trump appealed to her.

“As somebody who is nonpartisan, I don’t believe Trump is a smart choice,” she said. “I appreciate that Gov. Hogan had the cojones, if you will, to stand up to that and say, ‘I don’t support all the things that he’s saying.’ That was important to me.”

At Taneytown Elementary School, Jamie Knight, an insurance claims adjuster, said as a Democrat he felt compelled to vote Tuesday.

"There isn't anything I'm more particularly geared for," he said at the polls. "I'm more driven by social media."

He said it was important for him to vote Democrat because having both a Republican president and Republican House and Senate was too much.

"I don't want [Trump] to get any opportunities to get more power," he said.

But Raymond Sims, a Democrat voting at Northwest Elementary School across the street said a Democrat-heavy Congress isn't the answer.

"I'm a Democrat but I don't vote party lines," he said. "This election I went more Republican."

Sims voted for Larry Hogan for governor, and Sue Krebs for the House of Delegates, but also voted for a few Democrats.

"We've got to come together as a country. There's too much disconnect," he said. "With Democrats taking over the House, there's going to be too much disarray and we won't be able to get anything done."

Westminster resident Beth McNamee, 49, said she was particularly interested in the governor’s race this year.

McNamee, who was voting at Westminster Elementary School, said she’s registered as an Independent, but is voting for Gov. Larry Hogan.

“I like his positivity, I like ... some of the changes he’s implemented in Maryland so far, I like the fact that he kind of crosses party lines -- he doesn't just stick to Republicans and he can talk to all people. You know, I think he’s really brought the state together,” McNamee said, later adding, “I just think that this is a really important election, you know the country’s really divided and I just think that everybody should go out and exercise their right to vote and be heard.”

North Carroll Middle School was a sea of umbrellas outdoors at 3 p.m. but inside each of the 20 stations where voters filled out their ballots was full.

Chief Judge Brenda Wulforst said, “there was a line at 6:30 a.m. and there hasn’t been a lull since.

The 1,500th voter crossed the threshold at about 3:15 p.m. Wulforst said everyone had been even tempered and there had been no problems all day.

Many voters were focused on the governor’s race.

Nicole Laurence, a Democrat was voting for Ben Jealous in the governor’s race. As a state worker, she was hoping to see him make a difference.

“I just want to see some change,” she said.

Louis and Sandra Lockard, of Manchester, both voted Republican down the ticket.

Louis said he had been a registered Democrat for 60 years but had started voting Republican in recent years.

Sandra said she voted for Hogan because he had done a good job in his past term. “He seems like he takes everything into consideration,” she said.

At Hampstead Elementary there was line of a few, but it moved swiftly. 1461 had voted as of 4 p.m. Outside, Girl Scouts ran cookie sales next to the tents of people campaigning for their candidates.

Wanda Jones, a Republican from Hampstead, said she was focused on the governor’s race and wanted to see Hogan re-elected.

“He’s definitely for the people,” she said. “ I’m not interested in Ben Jealous at all.” She was afraid he would bring large tax increases and she liked Hogan’s work to fight the opioid epidemic.

Cory and John Dolly, of Hampstead, also voted for Hogan.

“That’s the first thing I looked for on the ballot,” John said. He like Hogan’s track record in his first term.

Overall, though the wanted “to get more Democrats in [office],” Cory said.

The morning rain had all be ceased by mid-morning at Mechanicsville Elementary School, in Sykesville, but it wouldn’t have much mattered if the storm had blown on, according to Chief Election Judge Jim Long.

“They were coming in, getting soaked, umbrellas galore; they were coming in. At 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. we typically see the voting get lighter, but that wasn’t the case. There were plenty of people,” he said. “Supposedly there are thunderstorms later today, and that might affect the turnout.”

As of 11 a.m., Longs precinct, precinct 42, had seen 330 voters cast their ballots.

That was in the school’s cafeteria, but Mechanicsville Elementary School is actually the site of two polling places. Across the lobby, in the gymnasium, precinct 43 was also having a good morning for turnout.

“At 11:30 a.m., it was 784 for here,” said Chief Election Judge Michael Jones, a little before noon. “It’s been in spurts. We were busy right in the beginning, first 20, 25 minutes was busy. Then we had a lull — it was a steady flow but now many. Then it’s almost like somebody brings a bus and pulls up front.”

As with other Carroll polling places, Jones said the contrast with the primary election turnout is stark.

“The primary, that was probably the worst turnout I’ve seen,” he said.

Voters noticed the uptick in the number of people coming out to vote as well.

“”Its great to see so many people at this polling place,” said Bob Herbstomer, who declined to state his party affiliation. “I haven’t seen so many voters in a long time.”

Herbstomer was one of 14 voters asked for a comment at Mechanicsville, and one of three willing to give their opinion.

Democratic voter Patricia Traber said she was also impressed with the turnout, being a regular voter, but that she wasn’t following any particular races or excited by any particular candidates. She was concerned about “everything in general.”

Republican Kitty Banner, of Finksburg, by contrast was very clear about why she had come out to vote on Tuesday just before lunch time.

“I am here in [Mechanicsville] voting because our President asked me to,” she said. “It’s definitely about how you feel about Trump. And I feel good about him.”

At the same time, Banner said she was proud to support Gov. Larry Hogan because she believes he is bipartisan.

“I really love Hogan,” she said. “He is not at all one way or the other. He is for the people.”

Sonja Bloetner, 47, of Mount Airy, is an educator. She came out to push for balance on the Board of Education, she said.

That means people with an education background, of which she said their were two qualified candidates, and some with construction backgrounds in consideration of Capital Improvement Projects.

Bloetner also considered the national political climate as she cast her ballot Tuesday.

The Mount Airy residents teaches English Second Language students in a nearby county public school system.

She said it was of paramount important to her votes that candidates had balanced perspectives on immigration.

“We are a diverse nation,” she said. And, “there’s power in diversity.”

She also considered President Donald Trump and a Republican-controlled Congress. Bloetner said she wanted to see more balance, so as to check some of the President’s ideas.

Jeff Eyler, 37, a Taneytown resident, works for the federal government and said he sees himself as more of a constitutionalist than a Republican.

“I think both [parties] are far from that,” he said outside the polls at Taneytown Elementary School around 2:45 p.m. Tuesday. “But I tend to favor the right.”

Eyler said although he voted for Hogan in the last election, he wasn't sure what he would do this time.

“Yes and no,” he said about whether he likes the incumbent Maryland governor. “I think he could have done a bit more, I think he held back.”

As of 2:35 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, 1,526 voters went through Manchester Valley High School. Greeter Gale Riley said there were 83 voters in the first 15 minutes and campaigners outside described the atmosphere in the morning as “gangbusters,” though things petered out a little between 8-10 a.m. during the heaviest rainfall.

Nancy and Ronald Ehrhardt, of Manchester, both in their 60s voted “Democratic pretty much all the way down” and hoped to get some Democratic senators representing their area.

Tommy, 59, who chose not to give his last name, didn’t used to vote, but started coming after a conversation with a friend who told him, “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain.”

“I’ve never seen one like this,” he said, talking about the election and people’s Facebook posts.

Immigration was also important to him. “I have a lot of Spanish friends,” he said. “A lot that came here legally, they don’t like that either.”

“I don’t blame them,” he said. “A lot of them, all they want to do is come here and work and they’re good people,” but he said that it’s not fair to people who worked hard to immigrate legally and believes some are looking to not work and receive handouts.

“It is a privilege to vote,” he said.

Eleanor and Ed Houser, of Manchester, both in their 90s, are Democrats, though they voted for Hogan.

“I’ve voted ever since I could,” Ed said.

Eleanor said she missed some elections while she was caring for five children, but was able to vote more consistently as when they got older.

Tom Bosley, of Manchester, was happy to vote for Ken Kiler for the Board of education because he grew up wrestling and knew him as a coach.

He hoped to see Kiler’s influence on the board for his children now in school.

As of 2:15 p.m., 2,070 voters cast ballots at the Parr’s Ridge Elementary School Gym in Mount Airy.

With a steady, cool drizzle falling outside, voters continue to trickle in.

District 13, Precinct 1 in Maryland’s 9th Legislative District has multiple races that feature Democratic challengers taking on incumbent Republicans.

For example, incumbent Republican Sen. Michael Hough takes on Democratic challenger Jessica Douglass.

Union Bridge resident Sara Powel, 30, an attorney, voted Democrat on Tuesday.

Powel visited Runnymede Elementary with her 2 ½-month-old son Linus after voting at FSK High School.

"I voted for Jealous,” she said. “I'm not entirely confident he's going to win, but I'm inspired by his platform."

She said she voted Democrat across the board, but that she feels this election isn’t as big for Maryland as it is for the nation as a whole.

“The Senate’s going to go Democrat,” she said. “In Maryland I don’t think it’s just it’s a referendum on Trump, but across the nation, yes I think so.”

Pat McCarty, 73, of Mount Airy said he felt compelled to vote today to “keep the stupid people out of power.”

He pointed to the Carroll County Commissioner Race between Republican Eric Bouchat and Democrat Paul Johnson as especially important.

“I think we need somebody that knows what’s going on in the world and in business,” McCarty said.

He added that he sees Bouchat as business savvy, and appreciates that “he’s after the opioid people.”

McCarty saw Bouchat speak at a Meet the Candidates event at the Mount Airy Senior Center. Those events are helpful, he said.

The 73-year-old doesn’t think that voting one party down-ballot is a good way to approach casting a ballot.

Once a Democrat and now a Republican, McCarty said he even voted for a Democrat, he said, because he met the candidate at a forum and liked what she had to say.

“Who’s to say you can’t be a Democrat and have right-leaning thoughts?” he said.

He did, however, express concern about lack of party affiliation on campaign signs across Carroll County.

“If they tell you their affiliation, you kind of know why or they think, their beliefs,” he said. Omitting party affiliation from the signs suggests candidates want to hide some beliefs, he said.

Dennis Broderick, 64, of Finksburg, said he voted mostly along party lines as a Republican on Tuesday at Sandymount Elementary School.

“I think it’s very important for everybody to have a voice and a say in their government,” Broderick, an auctioneer, said.

Broderick said he likes current Gov. Larry Hogan, and while there was no race he was particularly interested, he was interested in the two ballot questions. Broderick said he was for money going toward schools from the casino revenue, but not for same-day voter registration.

“I think that would just make this process terrible if you had to wait for people to get processed for voting,” he said.

Valerie Lowe and Cheryl Pokorny, both of Westminster, said they came out Tuesday to Sandymount Elementary School and voted straight Democratic tickets.

Pokorny, 49, and a retired teacher, said she wasn’t as interested in the local races.

“I usually vote, not necessarily in the midterms, but you know all of Trump’s rhetoric, I wanted to come out and vote,” she added.

Lowe, 47, and a realtor, also said the current political climate was a motivator to get her out to the polls.

“We always vote but … Trump. I can’t stand him. And I just felt really motivated to get out and do everything we possibly could to help our party,” Lowe said.

By 10 a.m. Tuesday morning, three hours into Election Day, the cycles of on-and-off-again torrential rain had some voters worried about how the weather might affect turnout.

“The only thing about this weather, this may keep a lot of folks from voting, especially those that might be somewhat disabled,” said Earl Hawk, a Republican, of Westminster. Having served overseas in the military, he said, he would not let the damp keep him from the ballot box. “Having seen some many people over the years who would literally give their lives for this privilege, I would walk through four feet of snow to vote.”

Hawk’s sentiment was apparently shared by many voters in District 7, Precint 6, according to Chief Election Judge Michael Akey.

“It’s been very steady despite the awful rain, but it’s been really good. I think we always have 6 or 7 people voting at all times,” he said. “We’ve been averaging about 70 people per hour. It’s been three hours, so we are at 200-ish.”

This was in stark contrast with the primary election, according to Akey.

“There was nobody here for the primary, almost nobody. We would go half an hour, 45 minutes with not voters during the primary,” he said. “It’s been steady here today. Every minute or two minutes, at the most, we have groups of walking people in.”

Of the 11 voters asked for a comment, three were willing to give one.

Democrat Novell Washington said he came about because he was doing his part, though he wasn’t excited about any particular race.

“Governor Hogan? He’s not a bad dude,” Washington said. “In politics you can only do so much.”

Steven Benksy, also a Democrat, was happy to say he was supports Ben Jealous for governor.

“In the debates, he just came off much better,” Bensky said. “Hogan had nothing to say. He had nothing to show for what he has done for his time in office.”

As for whether he viewed the midterms as a referendum on President Trump’s administration, “certainly not for me,” Bensky said.

Hawk, the Republican voter, didn’t want to discuss who he voted for as much as his belief in the importance of coming out to support someone at all.

“If you favor a particular candidate, whether you are Republican Democrat, liberal, socialist, communist, and you don’t vote for that person and he’s not elected, then you have no gripe whatsoever,” Hawk said. “You didn’t take the time to get off your rear end and vote.”

A cold and misty Election Day morning, occasionally punctuated by pouring rain, wasn’t enough to dampen the enthusiasm of voters turning out to Friendship Valley Elementary School, in Westminster, Tuesday morning, Nov. 6.

In the first 19 minutes after the polls opened, 38 voters had already come through to cast their ballots, according to Chief Election Judge Karen Donaldson, a steady stream of enthusiastic voters she said was noticeably more numerous than in the primaries.

“We weren’t sure because early voting was so strong the whole time, it was unbelievable,” she said. “I was wondering if the rain would affect it, too. We were thinking more people would stop by on the way home from work because it’s supposed to be cleared off by then.”

That being said, Donaldson acknowledges that there could still be a large wave of post-work voters, especially given the enthusiasm demonstrated in in early voting.

“Even the last day of early voting at the Westminster Senior Center, there was a line when they were closing,” she said. “They are ready to vote.”

Of the voters streaming in and out of the Friendship Valley polling place, occasionally with jackets pulled up over their heads to shelf from the rain, 24 were asked for a comment and three were willing to give one.

“I think there should be more people out voting,” said Julie Ballard, who declined to give her party affiliation.

Brian Walsh, who described himself as an independent, said he wanted to vote Tuesday because he believed people too often take their right to vote for granted.

“The climate of politics now, I think everyone has to do their civic duty and participate in this process,” he said. “Actually I was very excited to vote today. Out of all my elections I think this one, I was pretty fired up to get out here.”

Walsh was particularly interested in the balance of power in Congress, and said he felt the election was a referendum on the job President Trump is doing, and he would like to see more of a balance of power, “which I think is the premise of what our government has been really developed on.”

Bill Healy, a Democrat, was more pointed in his criticism of the president.

“I believe that Donald Trump is really on the ballot and what I would call Trumpian values versus traditional American Values,” Healy said. “Because I am repulsed by Trump’s values, I felt it was more important to come out here and vote more Democratic than I normally vote, even though I am a Democrat.”

At the state level, however, both Healy and Walsh voiced support for Governor Larry Hogan.

“I think generally he has done a reasonably good job, not that I agree with him on everything,” Healy said of Hogan. “Ben Jealous, I think, is probably more to the left than I am. I’m not sure that some of the things he’s promised are really doable economically.”

“I think what I like about him is how he carries himself on both sides. I don’t find myself knowing right away he’s Republican or Democrat,” Walsh said of the Governor. “I think that’s what makes him successful so far.”

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