Meager turnout in Harford for primary election

Election judge Fannie Johnson answers questions for voters at Aberdeen High School Tuesday afternoon.
Election judge Fannie Johnson answers questions for voters at Aberdeen High School Tuesday afternoon. (Nicole Munchel | Aegis staff, Patuxent Homestead)

It was Election Day for the presidential primary in Harford County on Tuesday, but not many might have noticed.

Voting was lackluster throughout the county by mid-afternoon, with many polling places reporting only about 100 or 200 people showing up to cast ballots.


With a highly scattered Republican race for president and basically no choice in the Democratic one, many people in Harford seemed unexcited by the whole election.

Aberdeen High School had 92 voters shortly before lunchtime, including 53 Democrats and 39 Republicans.


"It doesn't matter because they don't listen to voters, they go by the Electoral College," Edward Hirsch, a Democrat who said he voted at the high school against President Barack Obama, as well as incumbents Second District Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger and Sen. Ben Cardin, even though all three are Democrats.

"You can't do much about it," Hirsch said, observing the turnout at his polling place had been low. "Nowadays people don't care about it. People feel the government's running the country, and that's it... The thing's a big joke."

Like other Democrats who voted either for or against Obama – who had an uncontested primary, Hirsch said the main reason was the health care reform legislation .

"I don't feel too strongly about the health [care] issues," he said.

Another Aberdeen High voter and fellow Democrat, Dennis Peters, agreed with that.

"I know one thing, I didn't want Obama," Peters said. "Last time we voted for him."

Nevertheless, he was not optimistic about getting a different candidate.

"The Democratic National Convention has already selected him," he said of the president.

GOP presidential support varies

Harford residents who were voting Republican Tuesday obviously had a much bigger pool to choose from for president, but seemed they seemed as divided as Republicans in the rest of the country.

At Havre de Grace Middle School, Kathy and Joe Mikos had cast their ballot around lunchtime for Newt Gingrich, "only because he doesn't have as much money as the others," Joe Mikos explained.

The couple was turned off by the amount of money being spent in the election, a theme that had come up nationwide.

"I always go for the underdog," Joe Mikos said. "[The election] is too long, too much money spent. The big business has the money on who's going to come in. It's a foregone conclusion. It's going to be Romney and Obama [in the general election]."

Kathy Mikos said she did not want the election to "feel like a landslide" in Romney's favor. Both said Romney would probably get the Republican nomination.

"It sounds like Romney is going to win," Kathy Mikos said. "We wanted to send a message and let conservative values come into play."

Joe Mikos added about Romney: "He's not the common man."

The couple also voted for Harford State Sen. Nancy Jacobs, as did other Republicans who were interviewed. Jacobs is seeking the Republican nomination in the Second Congressional District which includes the southern third of the county that Jacobs currently represents in Annapolis.

"We like her. She's been good for Harford County, she's been good for Democrats and Republicans," Joe Mikos said of Jacobs

Havre de Grace Middle had just 154 voters by around noon, with 105 Republicans and 49 Democrats.

Dick and Judy Rosenberger were two more Havre de Grace Republicans who voted for Jacobs. They, however, voted for Rick Santorum for president.

Dick Rosenberger cited Santorum's "stance on life, and I think he's got the right message for the country."

He was more ominous about the need for Santorum to lead the country.

"We just have to take the White House back," he said. "We have to save our country. That's what this election is all about."

Judy Rosenberger added about Santorum: "He's a patriot, and he tells the truth."

She also said the country has serious problems, mentioning the economy.

"Everyone's suffering," she said. "I think he would make a good president."

Republican Bruce Martin went with yet another candidate: Mitt Romney, who was hoping to close out the GOP presidential nomination with convincing wins in Maryland and Wisconsin Tuesday.

Martin, however, did not feel too strongly about his selection, or his options.

"I don't like where our country's going. I think we could have done better," Martin said about the race.

Nevertheless, he said: "I think it's time for us to get behind somebody and start supporting them now. I think [Romney] is going to be the nominee."

Martin said he wanted to see "anybody but Obama."

He added he also did not want to see U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin back in office. Martin declined to say who he did vote for in the wide open Republican senatorial race, but said he "tried to vote as conservatively as I could."

Early voting, turnout linked

The biggest reason election judges gave for low turnout Tuesday was early voting, even though only about 2.5 percent of the county's 126,000 registered Republicans and Democats voted early last week.

As of 1 p.m., Hickory Elementary School only saw 121 voters, and Jarrettsville Volunteer Fire Company had just 161 people come out to the polls.

"It's lousy," said Jim Bair, a chief election judge at Jarrettsville Elementary.

Bair, who has been an election judge for many years, said between 1,500 and 1,600 residents have the fire company as their designated polling place. By the time the polls closed at 8 p.m., Bair guessed they would have around 300 total voters in Jarrettsville.

Married couple Ed and Carolyn Jordan, of Madonna, were two of the very people locals to pass through the fire company's doors to vote.

"It's a great privilege to have the right to vote," Carolyn Jordan said.

While she doesn't hold it against others who don't vote along the same party line as she does, Jordan does believe voting in general is the most important thing.

Ed Jordan said he would be voting for Romney, while his wife is a Santorum supporter.

The polling place at Fallston High School saw more voters than many of the other locations throughout the county — a total of 296 people as of 2 p.m. Still, that wasn't very many for the heart of the county's Republican belt.

Compared to previous years, the turnout was a big of a disappointment, according to chief election judges Jeff Popp and his daughter, Shelly Almony.

Popp commented that on most election days there is typically a line out the door. When the polls opened at 7 a.m. Tuesday, there were three people waiting to vote, he said.

Fallston resident David Schwaber, a Democrat, voted for Obama, Circuit Judge Elizabeth Bowen, Wendy Rosen for Congress and someone he has known for 54 years, Sen. Cardin.

"He's hardworking, honest and diligent," Schwaber said. "If Cardin ran for president, I would vote for him."

Bits and pieces


Outside of Abingdon Elementary School Carol Brandau was passing out information supporting Del. Rick Impallaria for Congress.


Brandau said she would be voting for Romney as Republican presidential candidate, but wished she could take bits and pieces of every candidate to make the perfect president.

As for why she chose Romney, she said: "We need a business man right now."

At Bel Air Elementary School, Sandra Norris was walking in to cast her vote.

Norris is another Harford County resident to support Cardin and Obama, as well as Bowen for judge.

When asked why she specifically came out to vote, Norris said, "To make a strong statement against [incumbent First District Congressman] Andy Harris."

The Bel Air resident she believes Harris is "too conservative by far" and isn't willing to compromise.

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