TALK CANCELED DUE TO WEATHER – Will Reschedule – Kent County Democrats Present Talk on the Midterm Election

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Due to snow and slippery road conditions, this presentation for Thursday, Nov. 15, has been canceled.  Look for rescheduled date and location soon.  Thursday, Nov 15.

The public is invited to an informative presentation of an analysis of the just-completed Midterm elections. Dr. Dan Nataf, Director of the Center for the Study of Local Issues in Annapolis, will offer detailed insights into the results of the 2018 election, looking in particular at MD’s First Congressional District, as well as statewide outcomes, and a look ahead to 2020. Join us at the Chester River Yacht and Country Club, 7738 Quaker Neck Rd., Chestertown, this Thursday, November 15. Doors open at 5:30 for a social time; food and beverages available for purchase. At 6:45 there will be a brief business meeting; the main program starts at 7:00 pm.

For more information about the club and this event, visit the DCKC website: dckcmd.com

Church Hill Theatre’s “The Hostage” – Bright and Bawdy, Irreverent and Tender

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High-stepping at the brothel. “The Hostage” at Church Hill Theatre – Photo by Jane Jewell

Brendan Behan’s The Hostage, currently playing at Church Hill Theatre, is a rowdy, irreverent look at an Irish pub and brothel in mid-20th century Dublin. Filled with drunks, rebels, prostitutes, and the occasional innocent, the play is a wild document of a time when imagination was hard-pressed to keep up with reality.

The Hostage is an expansion, in English, of a one-act play in Gaelic (the Irish Celtic language) by Behan, which debuted in Dublin in 1958. The author translated it into English for performance at Joan Littleton’s Theatre Workshop at Royal Stratford East later that same year. The Royal Stratford performance involved a good deal of improvisation, which Behan incorporated into the script for subsequent productions in London and on Broadway.

Behan, born in 1923 to a family strongly committed to Irish independence, was a prolific writer, with novels, short stories and poetry in both English and Gaelic to his credit. He joined the Irish Republican Army at age 16, and spent time in prison both in England and Ireland on account of his activities. Released in 1946 as part of a general amnesty, he spent the early 1950s in Paris, where he matured as a writer. With the production of his play The Quare Fellow in 1954 – which opened on Broadway the following year – he became an international celebrity, moving to New York and rubbing shoulders with the likes of Arthur Miller, Dylan Thomas, and the young Bob Dylan. Poor health, exacerbated by years of heavy drinking, led to his death in 1963.

As with much Irish literature, The Hostage runs the gamut from broad comedy to political commentary to heartbreak. The characters frequently break into song and dance – assisted by an on-stage pianist – with numbers ranging from music-hall favorites to IRA anthems to bawdy parody. It’s an overwhelming two-hours-plus experience, made even headier by the thick Irish dialect adopted by the actors.

The plot is simple: Pat, who runs the pub, is a former IRA commander who still has ties to the movement. Prime among them is an elderly IRA officer known as Monsewer who actually owns the property. In response to the scheduled execution of a young IRA soldier in Belfast, the IRA kidnaps a young English soldier who is brought to the house as a hostage. The action takes place in the afternoon and evening of one day.

Director Pat Patterson recounts his own experience in an early 1970s production of the play, when tensions between the English and Irish were on the rise. The program book also includes a brief history of the conflict between the two nations by John Haas, and a glossary of some of the unfamiliar terms and references in the script. It’s both helpful and interesting and I suggest reading it either before or after seeing the play.

Christopher Wallace as Pat, the Irish Resistance fighter and his consort Meg, played by Christine Kinlock. She sees right through him! – Photo by Steve Atkinson

The play has a large cast, with 15 characters including Kelly the pianist, a role shared by Julie Lawrence and Philip Dutton. (Lawrence took the role the night we saw the play.) Randy Welch, offstage for most of the production, provides bagpipe music for Monsewer.

Christopher Wallace plays Pat, the hard-drinking caretaker of the house. He is in some ways the moral center of the play, especially toward the end where he shows himself a good bit more humane than the fanatical nationalists around him. A member of the CHT board, Wallace has appeared in a number of productions – this is definitely one of his best performances yet.

“The Hostage” at Church Hill Theatre – Photo by Jane Jewell

Pat’s consort Meg is played by Christine Kinlock, most recently seen in Earl Lewin’s Hitched. Meg is the practical inn- and brothel-keeper who sees life clearly. Unlike her man and fellow innkeeper Pat, she is no longer full of dreams of past and future glory in the Irish Resistance. Though still an Irish patriot, she is very aware of day-to-day realities. She wants the rent paid! Yet Meg is still sympathetic, especially to young lovers. Kinlock brings out all these qualities very nicely. This represents a different kind of role than Kinlock usually plays and she definitely rises to the occasion.

Herb Ziegler returns to the Church Hill stage in the role of Monsewer, the kilted, bagpipe-playing former IRA officer who owns the house and is just a little touched in the head. He slowly marches into and out of the room, turning precise military corners and “reviewing” the house’s residents as if they were his platoon. It’s a character that could easily be overplayed, but Ziegler nicely balances the absurdity of the character with the serious political viewpoint he represents. His name, actually a title/nickname, is a satiric mispronunciation of the French honorific “monsieur“. And in another clearly intentional ironic twist, the Irish patriot character Monsewer is actually English born and bred. There’s no zealot like a convert! It’s good to see Herb back on the boards!

Miss Gilchrist (Hester Sachse) gets her moves on while innkeeper Meg (far right, Christine Kinlock) and the ladies of the house watch.  “The Hostage” at Chruch Hill Theatre –  Photo by Jane Jewell

The hostage after whom the play is named, an English soldier named Leslie Williams, is played by Max Hagan. Making his CHT debut. Hagan is convincing as the innocent victim of political gamesmanship, and he deploys a Cockney accent effectively – never quite surrendering clarity to authenticity. A nice job – let’s hope he returns to CHT often.

Maya McGrory is well cast as Teresa, the young maid who falls in love with the hostage Leslie. Petite and blonde, she looks perfect for the part of the orphaned country lass who gives her heart to the captured enemy soldier. Still a Queen Anne’s High School junior, McGrory has been a regular CHT cast member. She conveys shyness, sweetness, and innocence—or as much innocence as a maid in brothel can have. An excellent job.

Hester Sachse, executive director of CHT, takes to the stage as an overbearing social worker, Miss Gilchrest – and does a fine job in the part. She amusingly handles the transition from the character’s stiff-necked peddling of shallow pieties to her considerably looser persona after she’s had a few pints of Guinness.

“The Hostage” at Church Hill Theatre – Photo by Steve Atkinson

Howard Messick, also fresh from an appearance in Hitched, is cast as Mr. Mulleady, a civil servant who spends most of his time in the brothel. Paul Briggs is quite convincing as a fanatical IRA officer who brings the prisoner to the house. Charles Michael Moore and Kellan Paddy are cast as a gay couple, Rio Rita and Princess Grace, who liven the stage with bawdy song and dance – including “We’re Here Because We’re Queer.” They’re wittily sarcastic and dressed to the nines in sexy styles in bright colors.

Natalie Lane, in her first role at CHT, and Michelle Christopher, who has stage-managed numerous plays at the theater, play two of the prostitutes, Collette and Ropeen. They saunter around the stage in sexy, skimpy bustiers and negligees, the perfect image of world-weary prostitutes who have seen it all. Eamon Murphy, a graduate of the CHT Green Room Gang, does a good job as an IRA soldier sent to guard the hostage, and Troy Strootman, last seen on the CHT stage in Biloxi Blues, has an amusing part as a drunken Russian sailor.

Ordinarily, I might complain about some of the singers being a bit out of tune at times, but in the context of this play it’s exactly right – in fact, if they sounded too professional it’d undercut the effect. The Irish accents are thick enough that it’s sometimes hard to follow the dialogue. But it’s well worth listening – there’s plenty of meat underneath the colorful exterior.

Monsewer (Herb Zeigler) in his kilt lectures Pat (Christopher Wallace) while the hostage, Leslie, Max Hagan) looks on. “The Hostage” at Church Hill Theatre – Photo by Jane Jewell

All of the action takes place in one large barroom, with a stairway leading up to various rooms. However, a bed in the center of the stage represents the room where Leslie is kept. It’s a comparatively simple set, which the production makes good use of. Kudos to set designer Michael Whitehill.

On the whole, The Hostage is an exhilarating experience, with a talented cast delivering a script that ranges from the scurrilous to the poetic – sometimes hitting both extremes in a matter of moments. In the tradition of Irish writers from Johnathan Swift to James Joyce, the play is at once hilarious and deeply serious about the contradictions of human nature, especially as it manifests itself in the struggle for freedom.

The Hostage runs through Nov. 18, with performances at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and matinees at 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for CHT members and $10 for students – though the play’s language and subject matter may not be suitable for very young students. For more information or to make reservations, call 410-556-6003 or visit the theater website.

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Election Results: Harris Back in Congress; Jacob, Mason and Fithian Win in Commissioner Race

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Finally, the Maryland Board of Elections has released Kent County and 1st District results after a considerable delay this evening.

Kent County Results


Kent County Commission

 

 

Social Action Committee Interviews: Kent County School Board Candidates

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School board candidate Nivek Johnson with interviewers Charles Taylor, Arlene Lee, and Airlee Johnson

The Kent County Social Action Committee conducted interviews of candidates for three local offices that are up for election this November. The interviews were conducted over three days in October. 

Running for Board of Education seats are incumbents Wendy Costa and Trish McGee and new candidates Nivek Johnson and Francoise Sullivan. There are three seats to be filled. Election to the board is non-partisan, and the ballot does not list the candidates’ party affiliation.

The first question for Board of Education candidates noted that the schools had experienced “very serious violence and racism” during the previous school year. It asked candidates how, if elected, they would create a Kent County Public School system that is “fair, equitable and effective for all students, including students of color.

Nivek Johnson, the first to be interviewed, said that a lot of school systems are facing similar problems. He said he would encourage the County Superintendent to look into restorative justice, an approach that encourages students to resolve conflicts on their own, by bringing them together in small peer groups to talk, ask questions and air grievances. Also, he said, a round table discussion about issues of racism and violence would allow teachers to bring problems to a fair resolution without resorting to punishment. He said he had experienced the positive effects of restorative justice while teaching at St. Peter and Paul’s in Easton.

Francoise Sullivan said that many of the “ugly events” last year were the result of the board’s decision to bring in an outside contractor for school buses. She said she favored starting to talk about racism at an early age, pointing to the Students Talking About Racism (STAR) program at the middle school. She said her own daughter, an elementary school student in the county, had been told by classmates she should only play with “others like her” – “I was appalled,” Sullivan said. 

School board candidate Francoise Sullivan with interviewers Charles Taylor and Arlene Lee

Trish McGee, currently President of the Board of Education, said the board doesn’t have the power a lot of people think it does. The Superintendent and staff make the day-to-day decisions. She endorsed the steps taken last year, including a multicultural committee at Kent County Middle School. “It’s important to communicate and give value to everyone’s story,” she said.

Wendy Costa also endorsed restorative justice. She said it should be used throughout society, beginning in the schools. Also, she said, students need to visit institutions such as the Smithsonian African American Museum in Washington. Seeing different perspectives and having diverse friends can do a lot to defuse racial problems, as well, she said. Black History month should expand its material beyond the accomplishments of Martin Luther King. And students need to read more, especially reading books in common so they share more experiences with one another – she suggested the biography of Frederick Douglass and “The Color of Water” as books that would give students a wider understanding.

The candidates were asked whether they were willing to take part in a workshop on racism and whether they would require school system staff to do so. Johnson, Sullivan, and McGee said they would participate; Johnson described himself as “a huge advocate” for the training and encouraged the superintendent to pursue the idea for staff. Sullivan said it should be done for all staff and teachers, and McGee she would “encourage it in the strongest way” for board members and top staff. It would also be beneficial for students, she said, commending the STAR student group for taking on the issues of racism. “I need to do this for myself,” she said.

Kent County school board President Trish McGee

Costa said she was unfamiliar with the workshop, but that the schools “should do this kind of thing.” She said she had done similar things in other districts she had been involved with, including attending Challenge Day at the schools every year.

Candidates were also asked about ways to improve recruiting of minority teachers and administrators in the county. Johnson noted that Kent County has “a unique makeup” – its small size means that people outside the area aren’t familiar with it. He said that recruiting more teachers of color was something he had always advocated. He suggested sending retired teachers and other stakeholders to colleges outside the area to show how much the county has to offer. He also said that many black students don’t see the benefits of a teaching career, and need to be shown. He said he would work with the county commissioners on economic development as a way to make the county more attractive to new teachers.

Sullivan said there is a nationwide teacher shortage, and that the county should broaden its outreach to historically black colleges. She said that inviting candidates to visit the county, with residents hosting them in their homes – as the National Music Festival does with its performers – would be a promising approach. “We need to set a percentage of what diversity should look like,” she said, adding that the percentage should be increased every five years. Also, she said, it is important to convert new hires into teachers who stay here instead of leaving for jobs elsewhere. She suggested that the county schools partner with Washington College to become a “teacher factory” for the rest of the state.

McGee said the failure to attract teachers of color has been an issue for a long time. She said the county had hired 25 teachers for the current school year, two of whom were black and two Hispanic. She said she had spoken to Superintendent Karen Couch about it on a number of occasions, but the job of recruitment really depends on the human resources staff. “There were more teachers of color when I was in high school,” she said, noting that it’s important for students to have diverse role models. She said, “We need to go beyond the schools” to involve people from the business community and other local stakeholders in the recruitment process. “Kent County is a hard egg to crack for a new person coming in,” she said, and the retention rate of first- and second-year teachers is “not very good.” She also noted that expecting Washington College to fill the teacher shortage might not be realistic – “there were very few people of color when I was there,” she said – and added that teachers hired from the college don’t tend to stay any longer than those hired from other areas.

School board member Wendy Costa and interviewer Ned Southworth

Costa also commented on the national teacher shortage. She said Kent County gets a lot of its teachers from Pennsylvania and Delaware. She said attracting more teachers, including teachers of color, is a question of making the system competitive with others, especially in terms of salaries. Teachers have traditionally not been treated like professionals, she said, giving the example of expecting them to perform lunch and bus duty – jobs that could be done by volunteers or non-teaching staff. If teaching were a more attractive profession in general, more people of color would be involved. As far as partnering with Washington College, it would be “great, but it’s not going to solve the problem.”

The candidates were also asked about ways to involve more students in after-school activities when parents or caregivers are unable to provide transportation to those activities because of work schedules or lack of a car. “I’m a proponent of after-school activities,” said Johnson. He said the board needs to put pressure on the county commissioners to provide more funding for schools. Also, he said, the board needs to look at its own budget to find money for after-school buses. He would work with the school district’s financial department to find funding. “It can be done and it should be done,” he said.

“It’s an issue for a lot of parents,” Sullivan said. “We need to address it on a big scale.” She noted that many families need both parents to work and that it’s the school district’s responsibility to make opportunities available to all its students.

McGee said that after-school transportation was one of the casualties of the schools’ recent budget crunch. While there used to be late buses, there haven’t been any for “a long time,” she said. Given the comparatively high levels of poverty in the county, most families need both parents to work, and they can’t get back to school to bring their children home. Transportation is “a county-wide issue,“ not just a problem with the schools, she said, and there’s no money to make it work.

To Costa, the lack of transportation is one of the biggest problems. One issue is the fact that school hours are “divorced from” parents’ work schedules. “That’s got to change,” she said, with school hours more congruent with work hours. She said the transportation issues also affect academic work, making it difficult for the schools to provide activities such as debate teams or math and science clubs.

School board candidates were also asked whether they would take and encourage teachers and administrators how they would support an expanded volunteer system in the schools; and what are ways for the schools to become innovative while still working within the state’s requirements, such as physical education, recess, and relevant local content such as African American history and culture.

Interviewers included SAC members Paul Tue, Charles Taylor, Airlee Johnson, Sherrie Tilghman, Ned Southworth, Arlene Lee, and Mel Rappelyea.

The interview questions were compiled based on issues raised at a joint meeting of the Social Action Committee and the Kent County branch of the NAACP. “Our questions posed to the candidates were based on the survey of many people at a joint meeting of the NAACP-Kent Branch and the Social Action Committee in May 2018. The members of both groups identified their primary concerns, needs, and passions regarding the quality of life and justice issues currently in Kent County. The Political Action Subcommittee of the SAC then took those responses and formulated the questions posed to the candidates, specific to each of the offices represented.

The final questions – between 9 and 11 per candidate, depending on the office – were drafted by the SAC’s political committee. As might be expected from the groups creating the questions, a number of them focused on racial issues affecting the local community. 

Each candidate was asked the same questions as others for the same office, in separate one-hour sessions. They did not see the questions until they arrived for the interview, at which point they were given a few minutes to look them over. Occasionally the interviewers would ask follow-up questions or request clarification, but in general, the candidates were allowed to take their answers in whatever direction they wanted. As a result, not all candidates gave equally long answers to all the questions.

The Social Action Committee consists of about 100 community members of all ages, who came together in 2017 to address racism in the community. The SAC is comprised of a number of subcommittees, each with a specific focus to actively dismantle racism in the community in areas such as education, jobs/employment, politics, and community social events/observances. The committee meets at Sumner Hall at 6 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month. All community members are welcome. For more information, contact Rosemary Ramsey Granillo, Director of the Local Management Board:  Office:  410-810-2673; email:  rramseygranillo@kentgov.org.

Reminder — Bay Bridge Closed for Race Sunday Morning

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Readers who need to travel across the Chesapeake Bay on Sunday, Nov. 5, should be aware that the Bay Bridge will be closed from 7 to 9:30 a.m. for the annual Chesapeake Bay 10K race. Traffic may be affected for some time after the conclusion of the race.

Some 20,000 runners are expected to take part in the 6.2-mile race, part of which is run on the bridge itself. The race, officially dubbed the Across the Bay 10K, is an annual affair that includes a full weekend of events including a kids’ run and an after-race party for runners, friends, and families. The race benefits several local charities including Hasa and Operation Shooting Star.

Click here for full details on the race, related weekend events, and road closings.

Kent County Early Voting Hits New High!

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There were seven paper ballot booths and one electronic voting booth in the voting center at the Kent County Library for Early Voting. – Photo by Jane Jewell

Early Voting in Maryland ended yesterday, and official records indicate that the turnout topped all expectations.

According to Cheemoandia Blake, Kent County Director of Elections, 2,999 county voters, 22.8% of those registered, had cast their ballots as of the close of voting at 8:00 pm on Thursday, Nov. 1.

For comparison, in the 2014 gubernatorial election, 1,969 county voters took part in early voting, for a 15.47% turnout. This year’s total nearly matches that in 2016 — a presidential election, when turnout is almost always higher — when the county saw 3,364 early voters, nearly 26% of those eligible.

Alice and Garnett Demby of Chestertown were the last two voters in Kent County Early Voting at 7:58 pm on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. – Photo by Jane Jewell

As of the close of polls on Tuesday, the early voting totals included 1,249 Democrats, 756 Republicans, and 295 others — including Green, Libertarian, and unaffiliated voters. The total accounts for 20% of registered Democrats, 15.5% of Republicans, and 12.7% of other voters. On the final day of voting, 442 voters appeared at the polls, of whom 242 were Democrats, 146 Republicans, and 54 other parties or unaffiliated. These figures represent party registration only; how they actually voted won’t be known until the complete vote is tabulated after the close of polls Tuesday.

As of the end of September, there were 13,139 voters registered in the county. The total does not include new voters who registered during early voting, although that number is not expected to be large. Under Maryland law, 17-year-olds are allowed to register and vote in early voting, as long as their 18th birthday occurs before Election Day, Nov. 6.

New voters needed to register by Nov. 1 to vote on Election Day. A proposed amendment for Maryland’s state constitution on this year’s ballot would allow voters to register and vote on Election Day in future elections.

Early Voting poll workers finish up for the day.  

Early voting was reportedly heavy throughout Maryland, with more than twice the number who cast early ballots in the 2014 gubernatorial election having voted by Thursday, according to an article in the Baltimore Sun. National reports indicate a similarly large turnout in other states.

Tameka Johnson, Kent County Elections Technician stands by the daily totals of posted on the wall in the library. – Photo by Jane Jewell

Poll worker Allen Christy was in charge of the scanner, helping voters scan their ballot and troubleshooting any problems. – Photo by Jane Jewell

Chief Election Judge Sam Johnston with the official locked folder. – Photo by Jane Jewell

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Autumn Fire by Nancy Mugele

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We lit the first fire of the season in our fireplace last weekend and breathed in its warmth and comfort. I love a glowing hearth in the evenings, and now that we have started, there is no turning back until spring. Not only do fires warm my toes, but the cozy fireside always warms my soul. Gazing into the dancing flames I can reflect upon my day, organize my thoughts, and recharge.

Not that I am in a particular rush to see Daylight Saving Time come to an end this weekend, especially considering how much earlier it has been getting dark these past few afternoons, but with thanks to Benjamin Franklin’s invention in the 18th Century, the dark evenings are definitely made brighter by a crackling fire in the family room. The added benefit, of course, is that the fire reduces our heating costs.

I don’t even need a roaring fire to relax and unwind. I just need a small fire to last a few hours as I read or watch television. Candles suffice in the summer months, but as soon as the weather changes, the flue is thrown open. (Our flue stays in the open position for months, but that is another story.) The fire is my companion on evenings when Jim returns home late from his office in Towson. And, for Jim, it is literally a warm welcome home.

I am pretty handy with the fireplace tools and can light a paper log with the best of them. But the art of stacking wood in the proper way to bring the fireplace to life is Jim’s gift (it is also James’ gift, but since he lives in Montana it doesn’t help me). When Jim is working on getting our fire going I can’t help but think of the phrase “light my fire” made famous decades ago thanks to a song by The Doors.  “Light my fire” is, among other meanings, a metaphorical way to say “inspire me.” Fires, in our oversized cooking fireplace, (made in the Dutch design, much wider than taller), inspire me.

Student writing also inspires me and this quarter at Kent School I will be teaching Creative Writing in Middle School Explorations. Four times during the academic year students can select an elective from a menu of offerings to learn something new, fuel a passion, develop a hobby, discover a potential future vocation, or contribute to student life via Yearbook or our Kent School News video production. This is my first experience teaching an Explorations class and I am really excited about it.

In preparation for my writing class, where I will focus on journaling, blogging and writing poetry, I have been reviewing my personal favorite resources. I will use Julie Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and Mary Oliver’s A Poetry Handbook. Both provide lessons on the basic mechanics of writing, as well as exercises and thoughtful prompts to awaken creativity. When I came upon this Mary Oliver excerpt, it struck a chord:

“Poetry is a life-cherishing force. For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry.”

Fires for the cold – I had never looked at a poem that way, but yes, now I see. Poems are literary works in which “special intensity is given to the expression of feelings and ideas by the use of distinctive style and rhythm” (Merriam Webster). Autumn fires with their special intensity can capture the heart as only a poem can, and they certainly have a rhythm as the wood catches.

On Monday our Middle School students will select their elective for the next two months. I hope some of them sign up for my session. For those who do, I hope that I can inspire them to share their special intensity through the written word.

Poetry and warm, autumn fires. Both will continue to inspire me as this fall season turns to winter.

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown, a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s, and a member of the Education Committee of Sultana Education Foundation.

Early Voting Underway; Runs Through Thursday, Nov. 1

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A forest of signs at the entrance to the parking lot outside the Kent County Library in Chestertown – site for Early Voting – Photo by Peter Heck

Early voting opened in Maryland on Thursday, Oct. 25.  Right from the first hour, polling booths across Maryland had long lines and high turnouts.  State officials reported that 170,00 Marylanders voted in the first two days, Thursday and Friday, Oct 25 & 26. This was more than double for the first day of early voting in fall 2014, the last mid-term election.

On hand to keep everything running smoothly – (L-R) Director of Elections Cheemoandia Blake, Elections Board Vice President, Lisa Thompson, County Tech Tameka Johnson – Photo by Jane Jewell

Thursday, Nov 1, is the last day for registering and voting.  You can register and vote right at the same time.  Remember that 18-year-olds may also register and vote for their first national and state elections.  17-year-olds who will turn 18 before Nov 6, may also register and vote during the early voting period. On election day, Tuesday, Nov 1, only those voters who are already registered may vote.

In Kent County, a steady stream of voters showed up at the Kent County Library’s Chestertown branch, the only early voting site in the county.

At some points, lines of voters stretched from the door of the library’s meeting room to the middle of the library’s main room, almost to the circulation desk. According to Cheemoandia Blake, the county’s director of elections, 216 voters had cast ballots as of 1:20 on Thursday – one of them a provisional ballot.  Voting went smoothly with the line moving quickly.

Of these 216 voters in the first three hours of the first day of early voting, about 52 percent were registered Democrats, about 35 percent Republicans and 11 percent unaffiliated. Two voters cast provisional ballots. Two voters—both unaffiliated — also took advantage of the opportunity to register to vote during early voting. Officials said they expected more people to register and vote during the remainder of the early voting period.

Waiting to vote! (Among others are Sam Scalzo, Sydney , Susan Percival, Bron Percival, Mabel Mumford, and Court Clerk incumbent and candidate Mark Mumford on right in hat.) – Photo by Jane Jewell

The library will be open for early voting every day through Nov. 1, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., including Saturday and Sunday. Blake said Sunday is traditionally the quietest day during early voting. Last election in 2016, only 9 votes were cast in the county on Sunday.  This year, over 200 people voted on Sunday.  By 5:00 pm Monday, Oct. 29, approximately 14% of all the registered voters in Kent County, that’s 1,796 people, had cast their votes.

As of the end of September 2018, there were a little over 13,000 registered voters in Kent County.  Of these, just over  6,000 are Democrats and about 4, 800 are Republicans.  In addition, a little over 2,000 Kent Countians registered as Unaffiliated.  About 200 others are registered as Green Party, Libertarians, or Other.  The exact totals are in the chart below.  These numbers do not include those registered during October and Early Voting days.

Voters are asked to give their name, address and the month and day of their birthday to poll workers who then check registration and hand out the ballots. – Photo by Jane Jewell

Several candidates for office were seen among those voting – including Delegate Jay Jacobs, Commissioner Billy Short, and Clerk of the Court Mark Mumford. Jacobs said he had been tracking other counties in the 36th District, which he represents in the General Assembly, and that voting was heavy in all of them. He said he had observed a lot of enthusiasm among voters while campaigning.

The ballot this year is a long one, filling both sides of the sheet. Offices being contested are Governor of Maryland, state Senator, and Delegates to the General Assembly, U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, and county offices including county commissioner, State’s Attorney, Sheriff, Clerk of the Court, and members of the Board of Education. There are also two constitutional amendments on the ballot, one requiring funds raised by gambling to be used solely for education and the other allowing new voters to register on Election Day. Marylanders can now register and vote during the Early Voting period but can’t register on Election Day itself.

Jay Jacobs, candidate and current incumbent for District 36 of the Maryland General Assembly, and his wife Dawn Jacobs hold up the League of Women Voters Guide – Photo by Jane Jewell

Individual paper ballot voting booths. – Photo by Peter Heck

Maryland has both electronic voting and paper ballots – voters’ choice. For early voting, there are seven paper ballot booths plus one electronic voting booth.

The paper ballots are fed into an optical scanner which digitally records the votes on a computer.  Sometimes the scanner can’t read a ballot and the ballot is rejected.  One of the poll workers told us that this had happened two times Thursday morning and it happened again while we were there.  An election judge checks to see what caused the problem.  The problem is usually easily spotted and corrected.  The “box”–it’s actually an “oval”–is generally not correctly or completely filled in. If necessary, the voter completes and scans another ballot.  Rejected ballots are securely set aside as the number of ballots received by the polling booth must match the number of ballots cast plus the number of unused ballots.

Elections Chief Judge Larry Wilson – Photo by Jane Jewell

An important tip to avoid having the scanner reject your ballot is to completely darken the oblong shape next to the candidate’s name.  But do not go over the line and mark the space outside the magic oval!  Poll workers said that the scanner also tends to reject ballots where the voter has put a check or an X in the oval instead of filling it in.  This scanner system works much the same as many of the standard school tests where you also need to carefully completely fill in the space.  Yes, we have to color carefully on our ballots. What we learned in kindergarten is still relevant.

After scanning,  the paper ballot goes into a secured box with all the other original paper ballots to serve as a check and a paper audit trail.

Bob Ingersoll has voted! He’s smiling because he filled in the “ovals” correctly and the scanner has accepted his ballot.

Sample ballots are available at the library, along with a League of Women Voters’ guide to candidates.

  Kent County Voter Statistics – from Maryland State Board of Elections Website  Page with Registrations by County as of Sept is here.

  •     13,139 Registered Voters as of Sept 30, 2018
    •     6,009 Democrats
    •     4,802 Republicans
    •     2,094 Unaffiliated (often referred to as “Independent”)
    •     30 Green Party
    •     80 Libertarian Party
    •     102 Other

This article will be updated with more Early Voting information as available.

See you at the polls!

Pipe Bombs, Part of a Larger Problem by Al Sikes

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I get it; mailing pipe bombs is a problem, not treasonous. But, it is simply a manifestation of a much larger problem.

A far bigger problem is the deterioration of the political parties and the absence of responsibility. If political parties are to be judged by their biggest domestic priority, each has one.

The Republicans seem unequal to anything other than some new federal tax cut legislation regardless of our national debt, annual deficits and underfunded promises. Only if taxes are reduced to zero will the Republicans turn their attention elsewhere.

The Democrats understand zero, as their latest proposals tend to revolve around free college and medical care. It is striking that the traditional home of the blue-collar worker devalues careers that don’t require college degrees.

Now I grant you that I have overstated both Parties’ positions, but since campaigns are conducted on themes not white papers, I am just yielding to the way they present themselves. I almost forgot one campaign theme: it is the one built around how despicable the other Party is.

While political parties have long disparaged each other, today’s Party leaders have stepped up their attacks. After all, we live in a world of performance art, reality TV shows and non-stop noise as our phones buzz or tweet or ring or whatever. In a world of noise it is hard to get noticed, so stridency or worse seems to be the marketing choice of the day. And, if you really want to get noticed without having to work at it, start as a celebrity.

President Trump entered politics a reality show celebrity while the umpteen others that ran for the Republican nomination pushed around obsolete talking points. Now that we have a celebrity in the White House, who gained fame before he did more than quip about public affairs, almost half of the US Senate Judiciary Committee auditioned for a similar standing with outrage as their persona. They understood the Kavanagh hearings would draw audiences at a Super Bowl level.

Do I blame Donald Trump for the pipe bombs being mailed to high profile Democrats? No, I don’t. Yet, he is without peer when it comes to “rubbing it in,” as my Dad would warn against doing. And since he now holds power, there is no lack of imitators.

In the meantime, our political performance artists are trying to move the electorate around like objects in a board game. Except, this board game is real and the winning formula is not determined by a throw of the dice.

At the same time, the Fourth Estate (journalists) has largely chosen up sides. They too have become victims of “magnify and amplify.” Headlines have become ever more provocative regardless of the underlying story.

In this world of Magnifiers and Amplifiers, compromise has become a dirty word. When you weaponize the most necessary element in a successful political equation, the autocrat becomes increasingly tempting. The end result is government by Executive Order with ultimate resolution left to the Courts as the Congress cedes its power.

What we should expect is what we have—a very deep political divide, divisions that parallel our fiscal one. Not surprisingly politicians, whose first and last loyalty is to self, are happy to forget future generations that will have to pay for their excesses.

Now let me end by giving a shout out to the President. He sensed what the scripted politicians didn’t. He sensed that his often shameless approach would send the signal that he was indeed different. He also understands weakness and exploits it hourly. Beyond that he crafted a message, “Make America Great Again” that turned out to be brilliant. By dismissing such a sentiment, the elites played his game and lost.

Now that he has awakened garden-variety politicians, perhaps they should go to work trying to match expectations with resources, something he is not good at. There are a number of wordsmiths that can make such an effort ring clear and urgent. Trump owns hubris; maybe the winning formula can be found in truth. I sure wish John McCain was still around.

Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books.