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Get out and vote, because we have more muscle than we think

September 26, 2004|by Dee Mayberry

On Sept. 14, The Herald Mail published one of the most valuable pieces of information that's come out in the past year. It came as an insert, available to pull out and keep.

Titled "Let's go Voting," it has everything anyone ever wanted to know about having a voice in a neck-and-neck presidential race. Of special interest is a section about how to get an absentee ballot. So many in Washington County cannot get to a voting place because of age or disability. As a result, statistics show, many residents miss the chance to speak out.

Some able-bodied in the county stay home, thinking their votes don't count. They count for a very great deal! Not so long ago, a Maryland statewide race was lost by a hearftbreaking eight votes. Some local races have been lost by even fewer votes.

Western Maryland in general and Washington County in particular have clout. There is muscle here, politicians know it, and where muscle shows, good stuff happens. However, strength is useless unless it is exercised in the voting booth.

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We live in a time of number crunching. Politicians check voter-registration lists to see how many people register as "Independent" versus one of the two major parties. Properly called "undeclared," independents along with people signing up for third parties are in the mix when strategy is designed. This year independents and Ralph-Nader voters are seen as spoilers for one or the other major parties.

Independents may want to rethink that choice while registration changes still are possible (the books close on this Oct. 12). In November, everybody is independent. Republicans can vote for Democrats and vice versa. People need not have stick with the party they joined.

At the presidential level, some say we have "ugly" campaigns, loaded with personal comment and finger-painting. The fact is, small counties and rural folks are not tea-party voters. Few in Western Maryland are too squeamish to pay attention to a hard-fought campaign.

Moreover, the myth that women must be spoon-fed if their party is going to get them registered and to the polls needs to die a peaceful death. More and more women are showing up to make their ideas known. They want a place at the table when leaders are chosen. Parties can no longer count on them to be lured by "women's issues." Campaigns managers are waking up to the fact that women's issues are no different from any local or national issues.

"Warm and fuzzy," cute candidates, divisiveness on the basis of rights, vague promises and insults to common sense don't work for women any more. In Maryland, they are a force to be reckoned with.

Currently in Washington County, women are handling the tough challenges of jobs, finances and child-rearing. They can and will make up their minds, pack up the young ones and spend half an hour getting out to vote for a candidate who deserves respect.

A recent letter to the editor accused the local paper of conservative bias. The overwhelming number of Washington County conservative thinkers - Democrat and Republican - must have gotten a surprise out of that! Somebody must be buying into the notion that conservative is a bad word, describing a bunch of religious fanatics. Is there anything wrong with people who go to church?

A TV pundit put the separation of church and state matter well when he said, "We don't have separation of church and state, we have separation of state and God." It should be no surprise that people of faith have political opinions too, and they differ all along the political spectrum.

A large number of those designating themselves as "Christians" did not vote in the year 2000 Bush-Gore contest. There is nothing scary or dangerous about this group, but church folk need to realize there is nothing dangerous about politics except when people stay home, ceding choices to those with whom they disagree.

In Washington County, Democrats and Republicans tend to respect one another. Both want the same things and find common ground. A good candidate is a good candidate regardless of party, gender, religion, or lack of it.

Only one thing is missing in this potentially powerful situation - urgency about showing up on Election Day, a reluctance to flex muscle. Nor so many years ago Western Maryland produced a governor of one party and a U.S. Senator of another. These people got where they did because their voter base turned out to provide the gift of leadership.

Not long ago, the state of Maryland united to elect Ronald Reagan. Democrats, Republicans, and Independents went to the polls. Sadly, in recent elections voter numbers have been dwindling in Washington County, in a time of war when power at the polls can be as important as power abroad.

People of this county, you are more important than you may believe. Your clout may be more important than at any time in the recent past. Whatever your preference, know that you count.

If unregistered, if wishing to change registration, take the few minutes to make the effort. The Herald Mail has told you how. When Nov. 2 arrives, remember that you're important and take a minutes to stop at the polls.

If you don't know about or don't like most people on the ballot, skip those lines. It takes a vote for only one name to get your ballot counted. There is little worry about the machines in Washington County. Flim-flam is uncommon here and the process is as simple as checking out your groceries with a credit card at Wal-mart.

Finally, an especially important reason for getting in your car on Election Day is this: Washington County men and women are at risk in the Middle East to protect the rest of us. Use your vote and choose with great thought between the two men who seek to command them over the next four years. This obligation trumps any self-interest in which voters may be tempted to indulge.




Dee Mayberry is a Boonsboro resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.

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