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There's no excuse for not voting

January 18, 2004|by LIZ THOMPSON

There are only 43 days left before the Maryland primary election.

Pennsylvania voters will go to the polls in a mere 100 days for that state's primary and West Virginia voters will follow 14 days later.

That's closer than you think when you consider all that needs to be accomplished between now and then.

You need to be registered so you can vote. Then, there's the time you need to spend learning about the candidates and deciding which ones best represent your political views. And, of course, there's the final process of learning where your polling place is and going there on the appropriate date to vote.

In Maryland, the primary election date is March 2. In Pennsylvania, the primary is April 27 and in West Virginia, the primary is May 11. All of those dates fall on a Tuesday. And each of those states will have a general election on Tuesday, Nov. 2.

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This information may sound pretty rudimentary to those of you who vote, but based on voter turnout in previous elections, there seems to be an awful lot of people who may not know how to participate.

Less than 24 percent of registered voters bothered to do so in the November 2002 primary election in Washington County, according to the Board of Elections.

Pitiful numbers really, but better than the numbers in West Virginia. In Berkeley County, W.Va., in 2002, less than 20 percent of the registered voters showed up at the polls for the primary.

I searched but couldn't find a turnout percentage for Franklin County for the last election. A state Web site listed the statewide voter turnout at less than 18 percent in 2002.

Registering is simple. Call the election board in your county and they can quickly explain the process. At the same time, they will tell you where you will actually vote.

Election officials have tried to make it possible for every eligible person to vote. Polls generally open around 6 or 6:30 a.m. and most don't close until around 8 p.m. That should accommodate just about every schedule.

If you aren't going to be in town when election time comes, you can vote using an absentee ballot. All the candidates are listed on the ballot. You vote before the actual election. In fact, many election boards will mail you the ballot and you can mail it back.

Now come on. It can't get any easier than that.

It really bothers me that so few people vote.

Before the 2002 primary, I was sure voter turnout would increase. I was convinced, in fact, that after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, U.S. citizens would take the surge in patriotic unity the next obvious step and go to the polls.

They didn't. In fact, they didn't en masse.

Please don't give me the "they're all alike, what difference does it make" argument. Please don't tell me how busy you are, or that you don't know the issues. It only takes a little bit of time to learn about the candidates and there are hundreds of resources you can use to do that.

Voting should be a requirement of every adult. It isn't. It's a right and a privilege ... one that too few people seem to appreciate.

There's time - at least 43 days. Do the research. And then vote.

I'll be glad you did.




Liz Thompson is city editor of The Herald-Mail. She can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 7682 or via e-mail at lizt@herald-mail.com

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