'Fed up,' apathetic, Marylanders shun voting booths

November 07, 1990|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,Evening Sun Staff Melody Simmons and Robert Hilson Jr. contributed to this story.

Voter apathy is alive and well in Maryland.

For all the usual reasons -- a belief their votes don't change things, ignorance of the races and issues, a preoccupation with their personal lives and the fear that registering to vote will only bring them jury duty -- voters stayed away from the polls in droves yesterday.

"I just got fed up," said BruceFimowicz, 34, of Parkville, who spent part of yesterday afternoon at the Glenmore Tavern, in the 5700 block of Harford Road, instead of voting. "I don't feel my vote can change things."

Fimowicz was in abundant company.

The statewide turnout was barely 51 percent, despite brisk, blustery but sunny weather. And outside the counties where voters were jump-started by hotly contested races and issues, turnout averaged about 42 percent, said Gene Raynor, the state administrator of elections laws. That's down from 54 percent four years ago.

In Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties, where angry taxpayers had placed questions on the ballot that would limit property tax revenue growth, and where county executive's seats were being fiercely contested, voters responded.

At least 62 percent of Baltimore County voters braved long lines and long ballots to throw out their county executive, Dennis Rasmussen, and all but two of their seven county councilmen. But they rejected the tax-cap measure.

Elections officials in Arundel said that about the same percentage of voters there turned out to eject one incumbent Democratic councilman and elect a new Republican county executive and the first two Republicans on the council in 20 years.

But elsewhere, most voters stayed home. In Baltimore, Raynor said, the turnout "far exceeded 40 percent." Raynor was pleased with that, given the quiet ballot. But still, more than half stayed home.

"I'm just not interested in voting," said Michael Hendricks, 35, of Baltimore, who was buying his morning coffee at the 7-Eleven store in Idlewylde, just north of the city line, as the polling began.

He normally does vote, but, "I live in the city, and I think most of the elections are in the county -- the county executive and congressional races," he said. "I'm interested in the presidential elections."

A 36-year-old Towson resident, who did not want his name used and who will have to live with the results of votes on the county's tax-cap issue and the county executive's race, said he never has registered to vote.

"To tell you the truth," he said, "the main reason is court [jury] duty." Registering to vote means registering for jury duty, he said, and "I heard no one's [excused] any more."

"The work just piles up incredibly," he said. "If I were picked for jury duty, it would completely blow things."

Not having a voice in local government bothers him "sometimes," he said. "But most of the time the people I like do get in."

The last time Ronnie Taze voted was in the 1988 presidential election when he voted against George Bush. Before that, he voted against Ronald Reagan.

But this wasn't a presidential election year, and Taze said he had no intention of "wasting" his time voting for "these nolo contendere" [no contest] candidates.

Instead, Taze, 38, gathered with friends yesterday at Broadway and Preston Street in East Baltimore and enjoyed a day off.

"I know I should vote . . ." he said. "But there doesn't seem to be nothing to vote for." Taze said he'll vote next year when the mayor's seat is up for grabs. "I'm going to get my push together now to bring back Du [Burns]."

Sometimes the urge not to vote strikes voters at the last second.

Carolyn Conyers, 24, said she had every intention of voting when she arrived at the Engine House 24 in Baltimore early yesterday.

But once inside the voting booth, she looked over the candidates and "it suddenly came to me that I didn't really like any of them. I thought, 'Why am I voting for someone or something that I don't really like?'"

So she turned, opened the curtain to the booth and left.

"At least now I feel good about myself. I would not have felt good about myself if I had voted for someone who does not interest me."

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