- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Last Thursday evening, Katie Werner of Lexington Park stood behind the table set up in the hall just outside the entrance to the bookstore at the Leonardtown campus of the College of Southern Maryland.
“Are you registered to vote?” she asked each of the students and college employees as they passed by on their way to class or their work.
“Of course!”“Sure am.”
“I did it last night.”
“Not interested.”Kaylee Sawall of Waldorf, a CSM student studying Spanish, kept walking as she told Werver that she wasn’t sure she wanted to vote. “OK. Well, we can just get you registered,” Werner said, as Sawall hesitated. Werner suggested that Sawall could decide later whether she wanted to vote. If she was registered, she would at least have the option.
Sounded good to Sawall, who turned around and took the two or three minutes required to fill out the registration form. “The negative media ... kind of turns me away,” she said, explaining her reluctance. “It’s the way [elections are] covered. There’s not enough about the people you want to vote for.”
Members of The League of Women Voters of St. Mary’s County, of which Werner is vice president, were out looking for people like Sawall last week, as they staffed voter registration tables at three buildings at CSM’s Leonardtown campus for several hours in the afternoon and then again in the early evening on both Wednesday and Thursday. The effort was fruitful, with the league walking away with 71 new registrations after the two days of work.
“It’s to give everybody the opportunity to have their voices heard,” Werner said. “I think a lot of people don’t think like it matters, that their vote counts. But, honestly, every vote counts. Every vote matters.”
Cindy Williams, who is heading up the registration effort for the league, said the goal is to reach out to the entire community. “The league is trying to assure that most of the community is registered, so they have the opportunity to vote for the candidates of their choice,” she said. “And we welcome other organizations to also register members of the community.” The county’s Republican and Democratic clubs are also working to get potential voters registered, while the League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan group.
Voter registration forms are also available at all the post offices in the county. And every kind of registration information is available at the board of election office in Leonardtown.
The deadline is March 13 for changing party affiliation or to register to participate in Maryland’s April 3 primary. In the primary, registered unaffiliated voters can only vote in the election of school board members.
The deadline is Oct. 16 to register to participate in the Nov. 6 presidential general election.
As of Feb. 17, there were 65,854 voters registered in St. Mary’s County, said Susan Julian, deputy director of the St. Mary’s County Election Board. Of those voters, 26,420 are registered as Democrats, 26,250 are registered as Republicans, 12,204 are unaffiliated, 242 are Libertarian and 175 are with the Green Party.
Michelle Vaughn of Mechanicsville, who is heading up voter services for the local chapter of the League of Women Voters, said that the league has tried a variety of venues to find new people to register. “Our better turnouts are with the younger people,” Vaughn said, explaining the league’s presence at the community college.
In addition to the voter registration campaign at the College of Southern Maryland, the league plans to set up registration tables at the three branches of the St. Mary’s County Library. The league also participates in creating an online voter’s guide, which can be viewed at VOTE411.org. A print version of that voter’s guide will be available at the three library branches after March 5.
And then, on March 29, the league will host a candidate forum at the Lexington Park library branch for the board of education candidates and for the two candidates for circuit court judges. The public is encouraged to attend
Members of the league are discussing whether to host a forum also for the race for mayor for Leonardtown, Werner said, as she staffed her registration table at CSM. That election is May 1.
Paula Pippin of California, a member of the League of Women Voters of St. Mary’s County since 2004, stopped by the table to see if Werner had all the registration materials she needed for the two hours she was scheduled to volunteer.
“That’s our reason for being, to get voters to vote,” Pippin said. “I even got a lady who is a brand new citizen. I think that’s pretty exciting.”
Cody Blanton, 19, of Callaway was one of the first people to stop by Werner’s table. The engineering technology student had picked up a registration form the day before and came back to turn it in. “It looks complete,” Werner said, after scanning his form.
Blanton said that the two woman staffing the table the day before had caught his attention, but he was anxious to register and didn’t need any convincing.
“I wanted to vote, especially this year,” he said, noting that it would be a presidential election and that he was hoping that people could be elected who would end the political logjam in Congress. “It’s a privilege to vote. It’s something I’d like to do.”
To learn more
The St. Mary’s County Board of Elections office is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is located at 41650 Tudor Hall Road in Leonardtown. For more information, call 301-475-7844, ext. 1100, or see www.co.saint-marys.md.us/supervisorofelections/.
More information about the League of Women Voters of St. Mary’s County is available at http://smc1.lwvmd.org. The league will host a candidate forum for the board of education candidates and the judge of circuit court candidates on March 29 starting at 7 p.m. at the Lexington Park library.
The League of Women Voters of Maryland voter’s guide is online at vote411.org.