Although he voted first thing in the morning, Hugh Warner doesn't think many of the customers at his Frederick flag shop pledged their allegiance to anyone yesterday.
Against a backdrop of U.S., state and professional football team flags, he's heard so much disgruntlement and so many complaints over the past few days that he believes his customers "would vote for the Redskins, for Joe Gibbs, before anybody else in there now."
Indeed, as Marylanders made their way to polling booths in schools, senior citizen centers and firehouses yesterday, many voters, from Garrett County to Worcester County, said they were less than enthusiastic about casting their votes and less than satisfied with the choices.
"Most people are voting, but they're not voting for somebody they like," said Ron Nicholls, who owns a beauty salon in Randallstown. "There's a lot of disappointment -- and disgust. Nobody believes any of them anymore."
For his part, he's sitting this one out. He's a registered Republican but plans to vote in the November general election for a Democrat -- "for the farthest thing from what we have now."
"I used the dartboard theory," joked an equally dismayed Bo Hardesty, owner of The Narrows restaurant in Grasonville, explaining his choice. Although his polling place was crowded, he didn't hear much election talk at his Eastern Shore restaurant yesterday.
"Basically, people are pretty jaded," he said. "I think all the negative activity is causing people to wonder if these are human beings running for office. Have we lost all social graces in order to get elected?
"I think I'm confused -- like most people."
It didn't really matter which corner of the state you surveyed. It didn't even matter if you were in Democratic or Republican territory. The sentiments all sounded similar.
Way out west, at the Keysers Ridge Auto Truck Stop in Accident, home of "real food" ("nothing with soybean or seaweed," boasts the manager), voters found their political decisions a lot tougher and harder to swallow than the famous 8-ounce Ridge Burgers and hot roast beef sandwiches they lunched on.
"People are more or less undecided as to who to vote for, they're unsure about who's best," said manager Rita Morgan as she left the restaurant to cast her ballot. "People are almost afraid to vote, afraid they'll make a mistake. They're not sure they can trust any of them.
"But you have to have somebody. If you don't get out and vote, then you don't have the right to squall. You either keep your mouth shut or do something about it."
If the popular truck stop was any indication, voter turnout in the small Western Maryland town was good. The restaurant was busier than usual with local residents -- and it wasn't even a Wednesday, seniors discount day.
But Ms. Morgan, a former supporter of President Bush, was havinga hard time settling on a candidate even as she headed for the polls at the Grantsville Fire Department. "I'm thinking maybe [Arkansas Gov. Bill] Clinton," the newly registered Democrat said. "But I may change my mind once I get there. I don't think voting is an easy thing, period."
Across the state in the southeast town of Berlin, voters seemed equally befuddled. William Mitchell, vice president at Taylor Bank, visited his polling place moments after it opened -- out of tradition, not enthusiasm or commitment.
"I voted for one of the Democrats, but I wasn't real satisfied with any of them," he said. "I voted for the one I thought had the best chance to compete against Bush. It wasn't an easy choice to make."
Many of his colleagues, he said, found it an impossible one. "I've heard a lot of comments, 'There's nobody to vote for.' A lot of people figure it's going to be Bush re-elected."
But across the Chesapeake Bay at Lenny's, a steak and seafood restaurant in California, names like Bush, Buchanan, Clinton and Tsongas didn't even come up in conversation. All the election talk focused on the congressional race in the St. Mary's County town, part of the newly formed 5th District.
"We're all concerned about who's going to be representing us in Congress," said restaurant owner Dan Rebarchick. "There's really not a lot of conversation about the presidential race." In fact, some of his patrons said they voted but left the presidential column untouched.