Get Out the Vote!

November 05, 1990

So you're mad as hell and won't take those soaring property taxes any more?

So you've had it with those who say taxes can be cut without affecting government services?

Whichever side you're on, if you live in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Montgomery or Talbot counties, you had better be sure to vote tomorrow. For better for worse, election day this year is the equivalent of a showdown vote in county council. Taking over functions that ordinarily are exercised by the legislative branch, voters in these four counties will be directly deciding tax issues that will affect their lives and livelihood.

In other Maryland jurisdictions, voters will be dealing with matters that are more customarily decided in the ballot box: Who will govern the state and counties, who will represent citizens in Congress, General Assembly and county council, who will preside in various courts, what bonds should the state and local subdivisions issue, what changes in state and local laws should be made.

This election is by far the biggest in the four-year political cycle. No other day, not even presidential election day, is so important in determining your quality of life. If you care about class size in the school your kids attend, or the response time of your police and fire departments, or the frequency of garbage collection and services for old folks, this is the last time you can express your choice until November 1996.

Yet for every three Marylanders who pull the lever for president, only two will pull the lever for would-be governors, state legislators, county executives and county council members. Consider these statistics: In the 1988 presidential election, 76 percent of registered voters actually went to the polls. But in the 1986 election, only 54 percent turned out.

The pattern, on an up-tick, also held for metropolitan counties. In Baltimore County, for example, there was a turnout of 80 percent in 1988 but only 60 percent in 1986. These differences are so great that it can be argued that no-show voters could swing an election by showing up.

Ah yes, but what does one vote mean, more or less? John S. Arnick might have an answer. He has represented Dundalk (District 7) in the House of Delegates for 20 years, 12 of those years as Democratic majority leader. In the September primary, Mr. Arnick was able to cling to office by a margin of only 6 votes out of 14,944 cast!

Despite the polls, or because of them, vast uncertainty beclouds tomorrow's results. As much hangs on voter turnout as on voter intentions. Yet the state Board of Election Supervisors is estimating that only 52 percent of registered voters will show up at the polls, a drop of 2 percent from 1986. That is simply a disgrace. This is the year for Maryland citizens to confound the pessimists and stream to the polls.

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