Between The Lines

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Pathetic voter turnout continues to plague Ocean City, and nobody knows what’s to blame. Tuesday’s election marked the lowest number of voters in recent history with just 1,458 of the 6,551 registered resort voters turning out.

It was evident early on Tuesday that turnout was going to be light. Throughout the day, people debated casually what it might mean as far as the election outcome. Normally, low turnout favors the incumbents and perhaps that was still true with two of the three current council members returning to City Hall. However, there’s no question Council members Margaret Pillas and Brent Ashley benefited by getting their supporters to the polls.

Here’s a look at the last 15 years of voter turnout percentages for the Ocean City election:
July 1987: 51%
October 1987: 50%
October 1988: 58%
October 1990: 52%
October 1992: 55%
October 1994: 44%
October 1996: 52%
April 1998: 28%
October 1998: 43%
October 2000: 45%
October 2002: 38%
October 2004: 50%
October 2006: 24%
October 2008: 24%
October 2010: 22%

It’s interesting to note that in the September primary 60% of the 5,632 registered voters in Ocean City at the time came out to vote, according to the Worcester County Board of Elections. That’s noteworthy for two reasons: the huge difference in turnouts between the town and primary elections as well as the fact only Democrats and Republicans were eligible to vote then.

It’s also worth pointing out that as of Oct. 14, the county Board of Elections has 5,691 voters on its rolls for Ocean City, or District 7 in county terms, compared to 6,551 voters, according to the town of Ocean City. That discrepancy may deserve a look as well.

Councilman Doug Cymek was at the polls on Tuesday. He said later he, too, is unsure what’s keeping citizens from voting in recent elections. He said some candidates knocking on doors during the campaign learned there was some confusion among residents as to when they vote for Ocean City Council. Some thought it was during the Nov. 2 election.

“I don’t know the last few elections there seems to be a steady downward trend,” Cymek said. “Is it complacency? Are people happy with how things are going and it’s the angry people that come out to vote? I just don’t know.”

It’s a mystery to me as well.

Another note on the election, based on the number of voters who cast ballots on Tuesday, it was clear single and double shooting was evident and that clearly played a role in the outcome. This is a political pastime in Ocean City and usually decides the election. Unlike most, resort voters have the option of voting for multiple candidates because it’s an at-large race. Three council seats were up for grabs and consequently each voter had the ability to check three names. As is usually the case, many did not mark three. Based on the 1,458 ballots cast, a total of 4,374 votes could have been cast for council candidates. In fact, 3,835 were recorded.

In other news, we had a first in the office this week. There was a flounder in the building. That’s right. We have had fishermen bring fish and hunters haul in unique finds to our office for snapshots before, but never actually inside the building itself. In a wonderful light moment of this week, Berlin resident Bob Spetzer physically brought his 25-inch, 9-pound beauty into our front desk area for a photo. Of course, we were happy to oblige as it was a citation-winning fish (see it in the Sports section). I love the Eastern Shore.

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