CUMBERLAND — Across Allegany County, election judges were picking up supplies Monday and voting machines were being delivered to polling places, said Diane Loibel, election administrator at the Allegany County Board of Elections. The machines were tested for accuracy between Sept. 29 and Oct. 2, Loibel said.
Turnout on Election Day is hard to predict but Loibel offered an assessment.
“I’m looking somewhere in the 40th percentile,” Loibel said. She based her prediction on a fairly low number of absentee ballots requested and the low turnout for early voting.
Allegany County had the lowest early voting turnout in the state at 3.53 percent, according to the Maryland State Board of Elections. Garrett County was right behind Allegany County in 2012 with 4.7 percent absentee, 8.3 early voting and 57.5 voting at the polls on Election Day for a total of 70.5 percent turnout.
The low turnout for early voting in Allegany County may not be overly significant in predicting the Election Day turnout. “I believe that most citizens prefer to go vote on Election Day,” said Loibel. Loibel said it’s a tradition among people who think voting should be done on the day of the election, and many voters have told her just that, they want to vote on Election Day, she said.
Among the issues to be decided are two statewide and two local ballot questions. Both of the local ballot issues apply to Garrett County. One of the statewide ballot issues is a constitutional amendment to protect money in the state’s oft-raided Transportation Trust Fund and has the backing of AAA Mid-Atlantic. The amendment requires a simple majority of votes to pass.
The AAA organization pushed for the measure, which passed out of the legislature in 2013.
“This sorely needed and long-overdue constitutional amendment puts the ‘trust’ back in the Transportation Trust Fund, ensuring that the fund is no longer the state’s cookie jar,” said Ragina Cooper-Averella, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s manager of public and government affairs.
In the short run, it will take a while to see the fund recover. In the long run, though, the amendment could make it possible for counties to recover some of the funding they’ve lost because the fund has been used for other purposes. The use of the trust fund was a classic case of robbing Peter to pay Paul, according to a AAA news release. For example, the AAA maintained that more than a billion dollars were transferred from local highway user revenues to the general fund in the period from fiscal 2003 to fiscal 2012, according to the Maryland Blue Ribbon Commission on Maryland Transportation Funding.
Garrett and Allegany counties have lost millions in highway user funds used for road maintenence over the past few years. If the amendment passes, it would require a fiscal emergency declaration by the governor and a three-fifths majority of both houses of the General Assembly to use the funds for other purposes.
The other statewide issue involves special elections for county executive officers in counties with charter home rule. It would not affect Allegany or Garrett County.
The two Garrett County issues involve Sunday sales of alcoholic beverages. Question A would allow the sale of alcoholic beverages for off-premises consumption in each election district where the question passes. Question B would allow the sale of alcoholic beverages with meal in each election district where the question passes. Both questions simply allow voters to vote for or against the sales. In both cases, the sales would be allowed between 1 and 10 p.m. on Sundays.
Voting on the ballot issues and candidates should be simple for most voters, Loibel said.
Most voters do not need to bring anything with them to the polls, but will be asked for their name, address and date of birth. An individual casting a provisional ballot may be asked to provide additional information such as a driver’s license or Social Security number. Provisional ballots are uncommon and usually result from an individual voting for the first time, or someone who has not voted for a while or in cases where computers could not verify certain information, Loibel said.
Canvassing, or the verification of votes, will begin Nov. 6 with absentee ballots, and provisional ballots will be canvassed Nov. 12. Absentee and other mailed ballots must have a postmark no later than Nov. 4.
A final canvass of absentee ballots is scheduled Nov. 14 when a final certification is done of the entire vote yielding the official final totals.
Recent numbers from the state Board of Elections show that in Allegany County, there are about 20,290 Republicans, 15,206 Democrats and 6,529 unaffiliated voters registered. In Garrett County, there are about 12,060 Republicans, 4,631 Democrats and 2,345 unaffiliated voters registered. Statewide, there are 3.7 million voters, with 2,040,174 Democrats, 953,232 Republicans and 658,902 unaffiliated voters with a small number of voters registered with minor parties.
Allegany County will use 232 judges for Election Day and 56 judges were on hand for the early voting period. In Garrett County, there will be 100 judges, elections officials said.
Polls will be open today from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Matthew Bieniek can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.