It’s been 15 years since I have voted in Berlin and it was confirmed this week nothing has changed. It was charming and embarrassing at the same time. It reminded me of how we cast a ballot for class president back in high school. There’s no disputing Berlin has an archaic way of voting. For those who don’t know, we Berliners go to our designated polling place and are given a typed piece of paper, given a pen to check our candidate of choice and fold the ballot and insert it into a cardboard box marked with the respective district. It’s laughable how “old school” it is, but the system does appear to serve the town just fine. Until voter turnout increases and more than 808 people vote, it will probably do just fine. It’s also worth pointing out it’s extremely cheap, and that’s an important thing for the town.
Gee Williams became Berlin’s official mayor on Tuesday, losing the interim designation with his victory over former Mayor Rex Hailey by a count of 470-329. The former councilman received 58 percent of the votes cast and won three of the four districts. His victory leaves his District 1 council seat vacant. The town is planning a special election for mid-December to elect his replacement. Historically, special elections have pathetic turnouts. Considering 230 people in District 1 voted in Tuesday’s election, one of the more anticipated in recent years, logic dictates less people will turn out, particularly considering the presidential election is coming up in a few weeks. It’s a shame, but it’s true that it’s a lot to ask people to vote three times in three months. That’s exactly what District 1 voters will be asked to do if plans proceed for the Dec. 16 special election.
This week’s story on the county’s registered voters confirmed once again that the Republican Party is growing at a faster clip than the Democratic Party as far as Worcester County goes. Over the last 20 years, the number of registered Republicans has soared from 5,828 in 1988 to 14,390 in 2008. Conversely, the Democratic rolls have increased from 11,474 in 1988 to 16,793 in 2008. Whether all this actually matters is unclear because the county traditionally votes Republican in nearly all contested elections, from the presidential to the County Commission level. For example, five of the seven current County Commissioners are Republican. It’s unknown whether this tendency to learn toward the right is a result of the Democrats not turning out to vote, simply those registered Democrats having more in common with GOP candidates or the largely conservative community of Ocean Pines controlling the vote. It’s likely a combination of all of these.
It’s remarkable how often the topic of slots surfaces these days, but this week’s story details exactly how much money is exchanging hands by both sides to win their cause. It was noteworthy that a number of local businesses have partnered to donate thousands of dollars to the anti-slots camp. With so much money in play, a lot of mischaracterizations are being bantered about. That’s to be expected and even understandable from a political science viewpoint. Chief among the misnomers being thrown about is that slots are needed to save education. In an online message to Marylanders the day the Board of Public Works approved his suggested $345 million in budget cuts, Gov. Martin O’Malley joined the rhetorical battle. “More Maryland students than ever before are moving out of temporary learning shacks and into state-of-the-art classrooms, thanks to an historic investment in school construction and K-12 education. With the passage of the slots referendum in November, and an ongoing commitment to fiscal responsibility, we can fulfill our obligation to Maryland’s children for years to come,” he said.