Redistricting Spawns Voter Confusion At Polls

Many Puzzled Over Absence Of Familiar Candidates' Names

March 04, 1992|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff writer

Taped to the cafeteria door of the Crofton Middle School yesterday were two sample ballots designed to help voters make up their minds before entering a voting booth.

On the left was a list of Republicans that included candidates from the 5th Congressional District. On the right was a list of Democratic candidates from the 1st Congressional District.

Which one was right?

"Well I'll be doggoned," said Carene Housenfluck the chief judge at the Middle School, when shown the two forms. "This is what they gave us. That's what we put up. That's not right."

The Crofton Middle school is in the 5th Congressional District. But not to worry. The Arundel Fire Hall down the street, also in the 5th District, made the same mistake.

The real ballots at both polling places were correct, and election judges said voters apparentlydidn't notice the discrepancy. The incorrect sample ballots were removed after a reporter pointed them out.

That was just part of the confusion faced yesterday by county voters who selected congressionalcandidates from districts that slice Anne Arundel four ways.

Voters from Ferndale to Crofton had no idea that the once-a-decade redistricting took away their longtime representatives. Others said they simply didn't care. Most said they were puzzled.

"Completely," said Mapel Skarwecki, an early riser who made it to the Odenton ElementarySchool before her senior center bus left for Atlantic City at 9:30 a.m.

"It is the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen."

The school, located on Odenton Road, is in the new 1st District, which combines a chunk of Anne Arundel with the Eastern Shore, now represented by Republican Wayne T. Gilchrest.

The division also means that votersin the 3rd District -- which includes Harmans, Linthicum and Pumphrey -- and voters in the 2nd District -- which includes East Severna Park, Gibson Island and a part of Pasadena -- heard pitches from candidates who live in Bel Air.

Across the street from the elementary school and in the expanded 5th District is the O'Malley Senior Center, where Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Prince George's County, is trying to carve out a base in his new district.

"The confusion will be overcome," he said after paying a courtesy call at the center.

But many people wanted to vote for a more familiar candidate who wasn't on the ballot.

"I like Tom McMillen," said Frank Spadaro, who has lived in Pasadena for 27 years and was voting yesterday at the Lake Shore Volunteer Fire Station on Mountain Road -- in the 2nd District. "And we can't vote for him. I had to pick one of five people I didn't even know."

Harold Devilbiss said he didn't follow the once-a-decade redistricting process, but has always voted at the Odenton Elementary School. Lucky for him, redistricting didn't change his precinct.

"I don't follow it real well," he said.

And George King, who has lived inGambrills since 1940, said he "really isn't sure where the districtsare. I really hadn't thought that much about it. It doesn't really concern me. But I think they shouldn't be changing things. They shouldleave everything . . . alone."

Then there was Betty Elrick, a four-year Odenton resident, who showed up at the elementary school because "I know I voted here before."

Like others, she was confused. "Everybody else is, I might as well be, too."

But Elrick was happy when she emerged from the voting booth. Her favorite, Democrat Tom McMillen, was on the ballot, although his name eluded her momentarily. "I was still able to have what's his face -- the tall, gray-haired basketball player," she said.

And then there are those who were happyMcMillen wasn't on the list. At the senior center, Marilyn Manners, who has lived in Odenton since 1981, said she used to like the former4th District representative.

"I used to write him a lot," she said. "But I didn't like his position on the gulf war, so I don't care what happens to him."

Some people didn't even notice the names on their ballot had changed from two years ago.

"I don't care what redistricting is all about," said Wilbert Sasser, an Odenton resident since 1955. "I selected my preference from the choices I had and let itgo at that."

Others were just indifferent.

"I've always liked McMillen," said Leora Legas, who had just cast her ballot for someoneelse because her Odenton neighborhood is now in the 5th District. "Ikind of like him. Of course, the others are all right, too."

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