By Kayce T. Ataiyero and Amy Dominello
HAGERSTOWN – Frank Ziegler has “never not voted before,” but the 42-year-old steelworker says his perfect voting record will change this fall.
“I’m fed up with the whole Clinton thing. There’s too many real problems to be worrying about,” said Ziegler, a Republican from Monrovia. “I’ll vote when I feel that there’s someone worth voting for.”
Like Ziegler, many of the 34 Western Maryland voters interviewed by Capital News Service this month said they will not be going to the polls Nov. 3. At least as many more declined to be interviewed because they said they had no intention of voting.
Voters interviewed Oct. 1 said scandal, partisan bickering and a general sense of neglect have left them feeling disenfranchised and apathetic to the political process.
“My dog Barney could do a better job than they do of running this country,” said John Honoshowski, 82, a Hagerstown air conditioning maintenance worker who believes most elected officials are incompetent.
But some voters said they do care.
Frederick mother Carla Lemons, 32, is growing concerned about education as her son nears school age. She said she is going to vote.
Ralph Sunday, 85, a retiree from Frederick, said a woman’s right to choose needs to be protected and the lifelong Republican refuses to vote for Republican gubernatorial nominee Ellen Sauerbrey because he fears she is anti-abortion.
Western Marylanders have cared enough to vote in the past.
While 61 percent of the state’s registered voters cast ballots in the last gubernatorial election, Frederick County had 63.7 percent turnout and Washington County had 62.5 percent turnout, according to election officials in those counties.
Allegany County turnout was 64.5 percent in the 1994 elections and Garrett County had 69.7 percent of its registered voters cast ballots.
Some Western Maryland voters were still debating whether they would vote or not this time around.
“I’ll probably vote but there’s nothing that interests me much to stimulate me to get out there and vote,” said Richard Moyer, 44, owner of the Antietam Coin Exchange in Hagerstown.
He said Congress and the governor should do more to curb drugs in the community and put more police on the streets. He also said Maryland should consider allowing slot machines at race tracks to generate money for schools.
“A big issue in this state is drugs. Another is the gambling laws, especially with the horse races and slot machines,” said Moyer. “Areas like Delaware and West Virginia are getting in on it and [Maryland residents] are going there and giving them all the revenue … We are losing out.”
Most residents said their political indifference stems from dissatisfaction with the politicians themselves. The governor’s race in particular has offered little enticement for voters, many of whom seemed to choose a candidate half-heartedly.
“I wish there was a better selection of candidates for governor,” said Doris Baker, 58, a Mount Airy secretary who will be voting for Gov. Parris Glendening.
“Mr. [Chuck] Ecker would have been great, but he just didn’t have the money to compete,” in a failed Democratic primary bid against Glendening, she said.
Hattie Carter said she wants to learn about the candidates for Congress so she can make an informed decision, but all she has seen has been mudslinging.
“I would like to see [Congress] focus more on the issues and let us know what they are going to do instead of just always telling us what the other guy hasn’t done,” Carter said as she leaned against a bookshelf at the Hagerstown library.
“I would like to be able to turn on the news and see something else besides bad-mouthing and negativity,” said the 35-year-old housewife.
Carter said that while pressing issues like education face the nation, Congress is too absorbed with President Clinton’s political troubles.
Her message to her elected officials: “Let’s get this thing with the president over and shift the focus back on the people. Make sure we have a future, stop dwelling on the past.”
Unlike Ziegler, Janet Detrow never votes and doesn’t intend to start this year. When she was a little girl, her father told her to let the men make the laws and the 77-year-old deli shop owner has always done just that.
Detrow said if she were the “voting kind” she would vote for Sauerbrey because Glendening hasn’t “shown his face” in her town.
And though she thinks Glendening is a “bum who spent money on a stadium when we don’t have it for education,” and that the Congress should do more to protect Social Security, she is still not voting. She said she never will.
When asked whether her dislike for the governor would motivate her to vote, she said, “Oh, I don’t care what they do.”