- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Charles County voters will be able to cast their ballot ahead of the June 24 primary at the board of elections office in La Plata beginning Thursday, when the weeklong early voting period begins statewide.
Early voting centers across the state will be open through June 19, from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. The local board of elections office is at 201 E. Charles Street in La Plata.
Based on the amount of calls her office has received from voters checking on their registration status or to make sure that their address is updated, Charles County Elections Director Tracy A. Dickerson said she is expecting a low turnout this election.
“We have not seen much interest this election, unfortunately. The phones have been dead,” Dickerson said. “It has been what I call eerily quiet. I would love to see a big turnout, but it’s not looking that way.”
Dickerson said her “only guess” for the lack of interest is that the primary — traditionally held in September during gubernatorial years — has been moved up to June, when children are out of school and many voters are in the midst of summer vacations.
“The most inquiries we’ve gotten is whether it’s too late to change my party. That’s been the big thing,” Dickerson said. With Republican candidates running unopposed in every primary race except state Senate — and even then one of the two candidates on the ballot, Josh Castle, has pulled out of the race — Charles voters have been interested in switching their party to Democratic, she added.
In Maryland, the Democratic and Republican parties choose who may vote in their primaries. Traditionally, each party has allowed only its registered voters to vote in their primary.
Democrats outnumber Republicans in the county more than 2-to-1. Of the 100,678 active registered voters in the county, 58,823 are Democrats, while 24,458 are Republicans, Dickerson said. Of the remaining 17,397 active voters, 16,411 are unaffiliated.
Counting inactive and pending registered voters, there are 108,678 total eligible voters in the county, 62,621 of them Democrats and 26,352 of them Republicans, Dickerson said.
Every partisan office in or representing Charles County is currently held by a Democrat.
As Charles County has become more Democratic, the primary election has become increasingly important, with the general election’s eventual winners being those who emerged from the Democratic field of candidates.
And yet, Dickerson has not sensed interest in the primary commensurate with its importance in the county. Even before the lack of interest became apparent, Dickerson said she decided to retain the board’s office as the county’s lone early voting site due to the turnout in the 2012 presidential election. Only 1,645 Charles County voters cast early ballots in the 2012 primary, 2.13 percent of the county’s eligible voters.
Dickerson said she plans to add a second early voting site to the county for the 2016 presidential election.
Worried that many voters remained unaware that the primary had been moved up three months, Dickerson made sure to send out sample ballots 30 days ahead of early voting, she said.
“Please come out to vote,” Dickerson said. “I don’t want to be sitting in here twiddling my thumbs.”