The Presidential Election is drawing near for voters in Harford and Cecil counties, with early voting starting around the state Saturday in advance of Election Day on Tuesday, Nov. 6.
While the Barack Obama – Mitt Romney race for President is the headliner, there are plenty of state and local issues to keep voters in both counties interested.
Statewide there will referendum votes on same sex marriage (Question 6), gambling expansion (Question 7) and in-state tuition rates for children of illegal immigrants who attend Maryland state colleges (Question 4). There is also a referendum that, if approved, will void the congressional districts drawn by the Maryland legislature last year and mandate that the redistricting be done over by the governor (Question 5).
Harford County has several charter amendments on its ballot, while voters in Cecil will for the first time be electing a county executive and the first two members of their county council, as the county commissioner form of government is replaced by the new county charter adopted by voters in 2010.
There are also races for Congress in the First District in both counties and in the Second District in Harford and a statewide race for U.S. Senator.
Early voting begins Saturday and runs through Nov. 1. The early voting sites will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day except this Sunday, when they will be open from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.
This year, Harford residents have a new early voting site, at the McFaul Activity Center on West MacPhail Road in Bel Air.
Cecil residents can again vote early at the County Administration Building, in the Elk Room, at 200 Chesapeake Boulevard in Elkton.
Making history in Harford
This presidential election will be historic for Harford County in one respect: It will be the first since the national Republican Party fielded its first presidential candidate in 1856 that the party has more registered voters in Harford than do the Democrats.
With registration closed for this election, Harford's board of elections counted 63,527 Democrats and 67,459 Republicans on Wednesday, new elections director Kevin Keene said. There are 28,924 voters who are either unaffiliated or belong to recognized third parties.
The total number of active registered voters in Harford is 159,940, 10,000 more than the 149,651 who were registered for the 2008 presidential election.
In 2008, Harford had 64,883 registered Democrats and 62,410 registered Republicans, so while the Republicans have gained more than 5,000 voters in the ensuing four years, the Democrats have lost 1,300. The ranks of the unaffiliated or third party voters have increased by more than 6,000, growing faster than either major party.
Voter turnout in Harford in the 2008 presidential election between Obama and John McCain was 82.7 percent.
This year, Harford residents also will be voting on seven charter amendments, as well as the same seven ballot questions everyone in the state will vote on.
Among the charter amendments are one to allow former county council members to be employed by county government immediately after leaving office, instead of waiting the current minimum of two years (Question B), and another requiring that a vacancy in the office of county executive be filled by someone of the same political party (Question A).
Also on the Harford ballot is Circuit Court Judge M. Elizabeth Bowen, who is unopposed for a 15-year term.
Making history in Cecil
For the first time ever, Cecil County voters will be selecting a county executive. Cecil voters living in council districts one and five, which cover the southeastern strip and the area around North East, will also be choosing the first two members of the new county council.
Democrat Pamela Howard and Republican Tari Moore are the choices for county executive, which also means the first chief executive in the history of Cecil County government will be a woman.
Candidates in Cecil's first council district are Pamela Bailey, a Democrat, and Alan McCarthy, a Republican. The fifth district council race includes James Crouse, a Democrat, and Robert Hodge, a Republican.
The remaining three seats on the first county council, covering districts two, three and four, will be filled by the existing county commissioners representing those areas until the 2014 county election
In the other countywide races, William Manlove and Lauren Camphausen are running unopposed for The Cecil County Board of Education in councilmanic districts one and two, respectively.
The number of Democrats and Republicans registered to vote in Cecil County was virtually equal at the start of this month.
Cecil had 23,893 registered Democrats and 23,951 registered Republicans as of Oct. 1, according to the county's board of elections. The county only gets updated numbers on the first of the month, according to a board of elections representative.
There were also 12,417 unaffiliated Cecil voters, 136 Libertarians and 235 Green party members.
Congressional, Senate races
Incumbent U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin is opposed by Republican Daniel John Bongino, Libertarian Dean Ahmad and independent S. Rob Sobhani.
In the First Congressional District, which includes all of Cecil County and central and northern Harford, incumbent Congressman Andy Harris, a Republican, is expected to have little trouble in securing his second term in the House of Representatives.
Though her name will still be on the ballot, Democrat Wendy Rosen dropped out of the race several weeks ago after admitting she had voted in an Florida election while also registered to vote in Maryland. Her withdrawal came after the ballot closed, however.
Libertarian Muir Wayne Boda's name also appears on the First District ballot. Democrats, meanwhile, have tried to mount a write-in campaign on behalf of John LaFerla, who narrowly lost to Rosen in the primary election.
In the Second Congressional District, which includes southern Harford and parts of Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties and Baltimore City, five-term incumbent Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger, a Democrat, is opposed by Republican Nancy Jacobs, a state senator from Edgewood who represents Harford and Cecil counties in Annapolis. Libertarian Leo Dymowski is also on the ballot.
Go to http://www.harfordvotes.info/ or http://www.ccgov.org/election_bd for more information on the general election.