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Let the (your) voting process begin

June 30, 2007|By DEE MAYBERRY

Will the day ever come when we can stop concentrating on George Bush? Soon it will be nearly four years since he has been on any ballot - in Washington County or elsewhere.

In the past, our country has had single-term presidents. If the public had wanted it, George Bush the younger could have been one of them. Polls suggest people who voted for the president are not happy today. Obviously, people who voted against him have never been happy.

The question becomes: What of those who didn't bother to vote at all? What were they thinking? Why didn't they show up to express an opinion?

As Washington County voting activity drops, the only figure that seems to be rising is that of people registering as independents. Possibly these citizens are unable to choose between the two major parties.

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They need to remember that in general elections every voter is independent, free to choose anyone on the ballot. It might surprise some that in making a party choice the first step is taking a look at each party platform - finding out what it stands for.

Apart from anything a candidate says, each is expected to stand on the platform describing the party he or she represents. One exception involves school board races in which no party affiliation counts or is mentioned.

Copies of platforms of both major parties are available by contacting, in Washington, D.C., the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee and, at a different address, the Republican National Committee. Telephone information has the numbers where these groups may be reached. Information even may be available on the Internet.

Every four years, before the big national conventions begin, platform groups meet a week or so ahead of the main event to review and update the party's identity and its goals. All points of view are expressed and great "platform fights" can take place as part of the keep-it-current process. Sensible reasons go into every position advanced.

Certain basics tend to stand firm: The Democratic Party usually moves toward centralized government; the Republican Party usually moves toward government dispersed outward.

People who like the idea of independence - including those who register as Independents - could be more comfortable as registered Republicans. Those who prefer guidance or government help may be happiest as registered Democrats.

People who compare the two platforms will bring their personal feelings into play, making the choice quite easily. The exercise of reading the two platforms beats the business of listening to a lot of candidate campaign rhetoric at election time.

If voters make a party choice on the basis of platform goals in the period before a major election, the result may be more to the liking of all.

The second step is using the new understanding to register to vote - another easy task. County fairs and local events are awash with voter registration cards in summer months. The Washington County Board of Elections (240-313-2050) will mail a registration card on request. It allows for first-time registering as well as change of party. Once filled out, the card can be signed and mailed back to the address indicated. Done deal.

These cards also make it possible to register as independent - officially called "undeclared" - but that can be the least desirable way to go in Maryland. Here, independents are barred from voting in primary elections, where the wheat is separated from the chaff.

Candidates who don't get enough primary votes will not be on the big general election ballot. Fine wheat can be blown to the winds through primaries.

Certainly, June 2007 is an early time for decisions about individuals running. It is not too early to do a little homework about registration.

Step three, of course, is to go to the polling place the Board of Elections has identified for registered voters and vote in both primaries and general elections. Washington County has not had the scandals, machine problems or other glitches we have seen in other areas. Our voting experiences seem to be well-managed and straightforward.

We lack only one thing - numbers of people who take the 30 minutes or so to express a preference on election days. Only by changing that situation can we forget the activists and get the vital input of everyday citizens.

Calling a look-see at platforms good summer reading, this column urges citizens to wait on candidate choices if that works best for them. On the easy business of registration, it urges - in the language of the Cable Guy - "get 'er done" in the less frantic, lazy days ahead. To put it another way: Let's make informed registration decisions now.

Dee Mayberry is a Boonsboro

resident who writes for

The Herald-Mail. She is a former member of the Washington County Republican Central Committee.

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