Slow and steady as early voting gets under way in Carroll County

Switch in Congressional districts causing little confusion for voters thus far

March 26, 2012|By Bob Allen

There were times around mid-day outside the polling place at the Westminster Senior Center on March 24 when the campaign volunteers — all three or four of them, standing in the misty rainy chill — easily outnumbered the voters.

"It's light, maybe six or eight people an hour," said Krista Kniesler, a candidate for the Carroll County Board of Education, who stood under an umbrella handing out campaign literature in front of the senior center.

"Maybe (the light turnout) is because of the rain, or maybe people don't know," about early voting, Kniesler added.

Yet the voters kept trickling in — at the rate of about 10 per hour, according to the campaign volunteers. And the handful them who offered opinions said they found Maryland's early voting schedule convenient.

Few voters seemed particularly confused or perplexed that some of the names on the ballots were, because of recent redistricting, not the names of candidates they were used to — such as U.S. Congressman Roscoe Bartlett, whose race in the 6th Congressional District no longer involves Carroll County.

Carroll is now split between the 1st Congressional District, which includes Taneytown, Hampstead and Manchester and stretches all the way to the Eastern Shore; and the 8th Congressional District, which includes Westminster, Mount Airy, Eldersburg and Sykesville, as well as much of Frederick and part of Montgomery County.

Kniesler said she'd heard no complaints or confusion regarding the district switch.

"I know some of the local clubs really have been working hard to let people know about their new candidates," she said.

But Kniesler's husband, Gregory, who stopped by a little after noon to cast his vote, had a slightly different take. "With some groups (of voters) there probably is some confusion, especially in the way that redistricting has split the county with a zigzag."

Inside, volunteer Deni Krug, of Westminster, said she and fellow poll workers were more than ready for voters, with 15 voting booths up and running.

"It's been pretty good," Krug said of the turnout. "We've had a lot of older people come in, and my son came in and voted, which is good, because he would have been in school during the regular voting schedule.

"Nobody has complained about anything," Krug added. "Just some of the older people have said this is very comfortable and convenient for them, since they don't want to wait in line.

"So far, so good," she said with a grin as she guided another voter through the short process.

Several hours later, around 3 p.m., with the chill rain still falling intermittently, the campaign volunteers outside the senior center 125 Stoner Avenue had dwindled to just two — one for Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul and one for 8th Congressional District Republican candidate Dave Wallace — even though dozens of campaign signs lined the long entrance drive to the center.

But voters continued to slowly but steadily trickle in. By 3:50 p.m., according to poll workers, 212 votes had been cast during the nearly six hours since the polls opened at 10 a.m. The polls remained open until 8 p.m.

One of the mid- to late-afternoon voters was Brian Brunner, of Finksburg. He admitted that he went to the voting booth unaware of the district changes.

"I was familiar with most of the names (of candidates), but not all," he said. "Obviously, the higher the office, the more familiar the names are."

Even so, Brunner expressed no concern over the changes and was happy to have the opportunity to vote early, and on a weekend. "I travel during the week, so this is very convenient," he added.

Frank Newsom, of Eldersburg, was home for spring break from Pennsylvania where he attends college. He, too, welcomed the chance to vote early. "It was either this or vote by absentee ballot, which is just a hassle," Newsome said.

Like Brunner, Newsom, who was voting for the first time, confessed that some of the candidates were unfamiliar to him.

"I recognized the presidential and senatorial candidates," he added with a grin. "I just voted for the others basically on their funny last names."

Early voting in Maryland continues through March 29, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day. Anyone in line at 8 p.m. will be allowed to vote. The site for Carroll County is the Westminster Senior Center, 125 Stoner Avenue, Westminster.

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