Unaffiliated Voters: Consider changing your registration to be able to vote in the primary!

The bottom line: If your voter registration in Maryland is “Unafilliated,” you can not vote in any of the primary election contests other than the Board of Education.

As of early this month, 32,839 of the 147,803 registered voters in Frederick County are “Unaffiliated.”

That’s a lot of people who will not be able to have an impact on which candidates will win primary election, and be on their ballot in November.

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This year ALL of the candidates in contested primary elections in Frederick County are either Democrats or Republicans.

If you are an “Unaffiliated” voter, and you would like to participate in deciding who the final two choices are going to be in the race for county executive or in your county council district, or who the four final choices are going to be for the two at-large county council seats, you have the option to switch your party registration, and vote in either the Democratic or Republican party primaries.

Of course, that would also enable you to vote in that party’s primary election for governor, attorney general, comptroller and other state and local races.

It is quick and easy to make the change, and just as quick and easy to change it back after the primary, if you like.

voteIf you are willing to think about that, also consider some of the differences between the way the primary worked under the current commission form of government and how it will work now, with the switch to charter government.

The way things have worked, each party has selected five candidates to advance to the general election. Given the overall registration numbers (of Democrats, Republicans and “Unaffiliated” voters), for all practical purposes that meant switching your registration to Democrat or Republican gave you the chance to have a impact on the who finished fifth, or perhaps even fourth and fifth, in the party primary. And, whether you did or not, you had ten candidates to choose from, and five votes to cast, in November.

The way it will work now, registered Democrats and Republicans will choose from two, three or more candidates in their respective primary elections, sending one on to the general election. Consider that five Democrats have filed to run for the county council in District 3. Only one will advance, and may well do so without a majority of the votes (the top vote getter could win with something like 30% to 40% of the primary voters, in a relatively lower primary voter turnout).

If that is your district, you might want to have a say in who will win that primary, and advance to the general election.

But there is another significant difference under the new charter format…

Until this year, Frederick County voters always selected county commissioners in countywide or at-large elections. Every candidate ran for the same seats, and every voter participated in the same election…in a county that, for a while, has had a modest, even if still significant, gap between the number of registered Republicans and the number of registered Democrats.

When the charter was approved by county voters in 2012, however, it came along with a map of five districts that was created by the charter writing board. If you examine the graphic above, you will see that two of the five districts now have a significant plurality of Democrats, and the other three have an even more substantial plurality of Republicans. (Click here to learn more about what district you live in.)

The imbalance in each of the five districts does not guarantee that, in the general election in November, Democrats will win the council seats in District 3 and District 4, or that Republicans will win the council seats in District 1, District 2 and District 5. But the odds are good that will happen.

(Having said that, I have to add that who is running in each race can always make a big difference. A strong candidate, with broad appeal, especially if he or she is running against a flawed candidate, can, and sometimes does, overcome the odds. I think we may well have a situation or two like that, but I’m not going to name names here today.)

In the end, under the new system, with districts, and with primary campaigns that have just one winner and do not require an outright majority (no runoff elections), there are a number of good reasons for “Unaffiliated” voters to change their registration, and be able to participate in either the Democratic and Republican party primary

The Basics

When you register to vote in Maryland, you have the option to register with any of political parties recognized by the state. If you do not chose a party, you are considered as “Unaffiliated.”

By state law, Maryland has what is called a “Closed Primary.” A closed primary means that a voter must be affiliated (registered) with a recognized political party…AND they can only vote for their party’s candidates in a partisan primary election.

(There are some places and some races where the election is not partisan. In those…and only in those…”Unaffiliated” voters can vote in the primary.)

All registered voters can change their party affiliation, as often as they like, and at any time. But there is a deadline for making that change a few weeks prior to every election, and the change has to be made before the deadline to apply to that particular primary.

The deadline to change your party affiliation for the Gubernatorial Primary Election is June 3, 2014 (election day is June 24, 2014).

So, you have some time to think about it!

At the very least, keep it in mind AND pay attention. Learn about the candidates that are running in the primary elections you could vote in if you make the switch. You might find yourself motivated to help choose the winner!

Changing your party affiliation is quick and easy!

To change your party affiliation you can use Maryland’s Online VoterRegistration System (OLVR):

https://voterservices.elections.state.md.us/OnlineVoterRegistration/InstructionsStep1

or submit a new voter registration application

http://elections.state.md.us/voter_registration/application.html

or by submitting a signed written request to the Frederick County board of elections.

http://www.frederickcountymd.gov/index.aspx?nid=1198

If you’re not certain about your current status, you can check your current voter registration here: https://voterservices.elections.state.md.us/VoterSearch

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