Residents divided on voting

November 04, 2002|by ANDREA ROWLAND

As Election Day approaches, Tri-State area residents are divided over whether they will vote Tuesday.

Some people interviewed Saturday said they were too busy or too disillusioned or just didn't care enough to vote. Others said they wouldn't miss an opportunity to help choose their representatives in local, state and national government.

As a registered Independent, Bill Tyler of Smithsburg couldn't vote in the primary election. But he won't miss the chance to make a difference in the general election, he said.

"I'll be there," said Tyler, 48, who added that voting "gives me the opportunity to at least try to make a change if I'm displeased."


Tiffany Fordham, 23, of Shepherdstown, W.Va., said she doesn't plan to vote because she hasn't been following the issues closely enough to make informed choices.

Cecil Justice of Smithsburg has been following media coverage about the election and attending political events to better educate himself about the candidates and their platforms, he said.

Justice said he attended a candidates forum at Valley Mall on Friday to learn more about candidates vying for seats in the Maryland General Assembly. Though impressed by much of what he heard, Justice said he thinks some candidates seek office for money and prestige rather than sincere concern for their constituents' welfare.

"I think it should go back to the way it used to be, when they represented their cities and towns just because they cared," said Justice, 35.

That won't stop Justice from voting.

"If you don't vote, you can't complain," he said.

Dick Renner of Hagerstown agreed.

"You really can't complain about politics if you don't vote. It's your responsibility as a citizen of the United States," said Renner, 68. "I don't miss a year."

"It's my civic duty to vote," echoed Mike Beasley, 56, of Hagerstown.

His sentiment was shared by several members of the "70+ Club," a group of senior citizens who gather regularly at Valley Mall in Hagerstown to chat.

"I've never missed a general election," said Robert Shank, 76, of Hagerstown. "I've got my votes all figured out for this one."

So does fellow senior Harold Thomas of Halfway, who hopes to oust a few Republicans when he casts his ballot on Tuesday.

"I've voted for 60 years and I've never seen a good Republican yet," said Thomas, 78. "You can bet I'm going to the polls."

Leonard Baker, 84, of Quincy, Pa., said he has voted in every election except when he served in the Army in World War II, and this year will be no exception. He feels his age gives him an advantage in the voting booth.

"I read between the lines on a lot of that stuff," he said.

Lindsey Guild, 22, of Shepherdstown, also plans to visit the voting booth for an election she said offers some fine candidate choices.

Although it's too late for her to register to vote Tuesday, Tammy Wetzel, 27, of Waynesboro, Pa., said recent events have kindled an interest in politics for the first time. The razor-thin margin by which President Bush won two years ago showed her that her vote does count. Then came Sept. 11 and now a possible war with Iraq.

The possibility of war makes this election year an especially important one, said Earl Rawling, 42, of Martinsburg, W.Va.

"We need to make sure we vote for people who are going to make smart decisions. I want my say," Rawling said.

Waynesboro resident Susan Zimmerman, 43, said the abortion issue is motivating her to vote.

"I'm more interested in getting more candidates who are pro-life," she said.

Christine Rayno said she doesn't plan to vote because she is disillusioned by what strikes her as immature behavior on the part of many politicians. Negative campaigning, especially, has left Rayno with a sour taste for politics, she said.

"One year, I watched the elections and the politicians were just acting like kids," said Rayno, 33, of Middletown, Md. "I'll vote as soon as there is someone mature enough to handle it."

Similarly, Hagerstown resident Sandy Stottlemyer, 50, doesn't plan to vote because she doesn't like the negative messages that politicians target at each other.

Dortha Berndt, 61, of Waynesboro, said she, too, is turned off by political mud-slinging.

"There's just too many things that goes on with politics. It's confusing," she said.

Negative campaigning and politicians' messages have little to do with whether or not several Martinsburg area residents will cast their ballots.

Yvonne Hedrick said she's well aware of the issues because she's received "enough phone calls" from campaigners. But she hasn't decided whether or not she will vote.

"It depends on my mood," said Hedrick, 60.

Voting is an issue of convenience for fellow Berkeley County resident Salley Jenkins. Jenkins, 46, will see if a trip to the polls is possible on a day when she will work, take care of her children and attend a meeting in the evening, she said.

Natalie Goodman of Hagerstown said she's too busy to be bothered with politics.

"I don't have time to keep track of all that stuff," said Goodman, 24.

Between working full-time, taking college classes and raising two children, she said, she can't find time to make it the voting booth.

"Maybe, if there were more hours in the day, I could make it. But there aren't," Goodman said.

Brooke Kelley of Hagerstown couldn't pinpoint one reason for avoiding the polls on Tuesday.

"I'm just not up to it, I guess," said Kelley, 21.

Staff writer Laura Ernde contributed to this story.

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