Today's the day to get out and vote!

High stakes: Baltimoreans can show how much they want a better city by going to the polls.

November 02, 1999

When he was first eligible to vote, Quinn Johnson gave the opportunity a pass. Then he heard someone say, "If you want change, you have to vote." He went to the polls four years ago for the first time and he'll go again today.

So should you. As city voters go to the polls to select a new mayor, city council president, comptroller and city council district representatives, no eligible Baltimorean should pass up the chance to be counted.

Think the mayor's race is a blowout so you'll just stay home? Not a good excuse. Or do you believe it doesn't matter who sits on city council? Nonsense.

Voting is your right and your responsibility, a hard-won privilege that folks in other countries sometimes lose their lives to gain. Don't waste it or disrespect it by staying home today.

Polls opened this morning at 7 a.m. and will close at 8 p.m. If you don't know where to vote or have a complaint about a polling site, call the Board of Elections at (410) 396-5550.

Mr. Johnson will vote today because he wants a better educational opportunity for his younger brother, for his nieces and nephews and for his son. And he wants a neighborhood where hard working people can walk home without being shot at by criminals or hassled by police.

He wants to be part of the democratic conversation.

He knows "zero tolerance" has been the two-word signature of this year's race for mayor -- and he worries about what will happen if the police are not trained and if people are not prepared to accept their responsibility in the effort to clear drug corners.

"It's my responsibility to know what's going on, yes, but you don't want a (police state)," he said.

An office machine operator at DMA Direct Marketing and a student at the Community College of Baltimore, Mr. Johnson, 29, realizes young people are among the least reliable of voters.

"A lot of them don't know the importance," he says. "This is their life the candidates are talking about. The people we put in these chairs will lay down the ground rules." On zero tolerance. On education. On clean streets.

So, Mr. Johnson will vote today, and he could begin to compile a record as proud as that of the Capitanio sisters, Margaret and Pat, who've almost never missed an election. Pat has her reasons for voting -- and they are heavily partisan. Her party, she says, is clearly the best and she never loses confidence in its ideas.

Now in their 70s, the Capitanios were imbued with the voting impulse by their father.

"I've never missed and I never will," said Margaret. She and Quinn Johnson have this in common:

"If I want to complain, I should be a voter," she says.

"It's my privilege."

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