It’s downright terrifying how much control we give away on Election Day.
Scarier still is how few of us bother with these decisions.
What we’re really doing when we go out to vote is hiring people for a job with vast responsibility over our public and private lives.
Everybody we hire to work for us in both county boards and councils and the Maryland General Assembly will be deciding how to spend our money. We give our county hires huge control over how we’ll live: how much our communities will grow and where; what kinds of businesses will be our commercial and industrial neighbors; what kinds of public services and amenities we’ll get — or won’t get; how much tax we pay on our property.
The people we hire to make decisions in Annapolis have even bigger control over our lives. Here are a couple of big ones: They’ll decide how much we pay on a whole variety of taxes — though the vast majority interviewing for the job will vow they’ll inflict no new taxes — and how to spend our money. Legislators even have control over life (who can marry whom, for one example) and death (sentencing for crimes all the way to the death penalty, for another example).
Yet in the 2006 primary election, no Maryland county had even half its registered voters turn out. Kent County had the highest turnout, with 44.3 percent. Cecil had the lowest, with 19.95 percent. Anne Arundel was in the middle, with 35.12 percent. Calvert was lower, with 27.96 percent.
Those sad totals were among people who take electoral politics seriously enough to identify themselves as Republicans or Democrats. At the end of June, Anne Arundel counted 144,158 registered Democrats and 118,042 registered Republicans, the full total who could vote this week. Calvert Democrats numbered 23,003 and Republicans 21,858.
So not too many of us think it’s a big deal choosing the people who’ll oversee our lives. We call ourselves Republicans (R) and Democrats (D), but we’d more honestly call ourselves Indifferent (I).
I wonder how many of the dedicated minority who do vote take the time and trouble to interview the men and women asking for the jobs. I can only wonder, because those are not figures tallied by the State Board of Elections. So anecdote is the basis for my suspicion that it’s very few indeed.
Have you interviewed any of the candidates for the job? Showed up at any parties or forums? Visited when a job-seeking candidate knocked on your door — if any came knocking? Read the election flyers left on your doorstep? Gone out of your way to see the people behind the names on the election signs? Looked up their websites? Recalled what serving job-seekers have done for — or to — you in the past? Read their endorsements by your union or interest group or newspaper? Or are the names on your sample ballot — if you’ve bothered to open your sample ballot — Greek to you?
This time of election year, I ask a short version of those questions to most everybody I meet. A few knock my socks off with their knowledge. My local environmental group, Herring Bay Advocates, takes political hiring so seriously that one of its members has prepared a list of five questions to pose to anybody who wants the vote of a Southern Anne Arundelian.
Most of us, however, say we’ve got a lot of catching up to do before we vote.
That’s why we’ve made Bay Weekly’s Primary Primer a tradition.
In the pages you’ll read this week, we’ve asked electoral job seekers in Calvert and Anne Arundel one key question. If they answer, we print not only their answers but also a photo and a brief and often revealing biography. Many have not taken their jobs as job seeker seriously enough to respond to this free offer of space to reach you. What can I say about that except dumb!
There’s no better time or place to catch up. Whether you’re enfranchised as a Democrat or Republican in this election or not, read up. A lot of these names are ones you’re going to see again, come November 2.