“V” is for “vote.” Maryland League of Conservation Voters staff and volunteers take a break from getting out the vote to express the importance of citizens going to the polls. Photo credit, Dave Harp.
Vote June 24th in Maryland’s Primaries
by Susan Cochran
President, League of Women Voters of Maryland
The story is told: An anxious woman asked Benjamin Franklin as he left the Constitutional Convention of 1787 in Philadelphia, “What kind of government have you given us?” Franklin replied, “You have a republic, madam, if you can keep it.”
Keeping our republic means a lot of responsibility for us citizens. The source of our power is the vote. Our vote is meaningful if it is informed.
In this world of a million distractions, sometimes it is difficult to know the candidates and the issues when we go to the polls. Bombarded as we are by political ads, we see major political candidates on television many times. But do we know what they stand for beyond the slogans, and what their background is beyond the smiling faces? And what about the many minor candidates without money who don’t even get that exposure?
The League of Women Voters of Maryland is an all-volunteer, nonpartisan organization. One of our important jobs is to try to inform our fellow citizens of the candidates for public office and the issues. We do it through candidate forums and voters’ guides for the whole state accessible at VOTE411.org. We also take on the job of advocating for easy and accessible, yet secure, voting so all our citizens can exercise their right and duty to go to the polls.
Many laws have been adopted in Maryland to make voting easier and accessible. No excuse is necessary to use absentee voting. You can apply online and receive your absentee ballot online. You can’t vote online, however. You have to download and mail in your absentee ballot, but what you can do online is register to vote.
This year, early voting will be available for an expanded period of time and more voting centers have been added. (In 2012, 11 percent of ballots were cast during early voting).
To get to know more about the candidates, do your research. Your local newspaper is a start, but some newspapers have their own viewpoint. To find out where the candidates’ money is coming from, check the financial reports they are required to send to the State Board of Elections at elections.state.md.us.
You also can attend candidate forums to get some insight into the candidates’ views and suitability for office. League-sponsored candidate forums are listed on VOTE411.org, a special one-stop place for comprehensive information on voting. On this site you will find the well-regarded Voters’ Guide, tailored for each jurisdiction with links to voting information at the State Board of Elections. All candidates for the same office are asked the same questions. Comparing answers side by side is possible on the site. From your private VOTE411 page you can enter your choices for each office and download your own guide to take to the polling place.
Adapted from an opinion column in the Capital Gazette in March 2014
Ask them what they will do to protect Maryland’s climate?
To find out more about the candidates on your ballot, review voter’s guides provided by the League of Women Voters, major newspapers and other organizations.
Personalized emails, letters and calls are effective ways to communicate your concerns to candidates and elected officials. A list of contact information for all candidates in the primary election is available at http://www.elections.state.md.us/elections/2014/primary_candidates
1. Review the sample ballot
You will likely receive one in the mail from your local board of elections. You may also print it from online at https://voterservices.elections.maryland.gov/VoterSearch
2. Vote early
Early voting runs from Thursday, June 12, 2014 through Thursday, June 19, 2014 from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. For a list of early voting locations go to http://elections.state.md.us/voting/documents/2014_Early_Voting_Centers_web.pdf
3. Vote absentee
Request an absentee ballot at https://voterservices.elections.maryland.gov/OnlineVoterRegistration
Request an absentee ballot by Tuesday, June 17, 2014, if you want to receive your ballot by mail or fax, or by Friday, June 20, 2014, if you want to download your ballot from the State’s website
4. Schedule a time on June 24th to vote
Confirm the location of your polling place at https://voterservices.elections.maryland.gov/PollingPlaceSearch
5. Put “VOTE” on your calendar for the November 4th general election!