by Amanda Milewski

Does My Vote Really Count?

How to Vote in Carroll County

Although the voting process has remained unchanged, Erin Perrone was appointed the county’s elections director on Nov. 1, 2023. Perrone has more than a decade of experience in the Maryland electoral process and most recently served as deputy director of the Carroll County Board of Elections. She succeeded Katherine Berry, who was appointed the deputy administrator of the State Board of Elections last September. Perrone explains that county residents can vote in three ways:

IN PERSON ON ELECTION DAY |  Tuesday, Nov. 5, from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m., at your local polling place. You can find your polling place by visiting and choose “find your polling place.”

IN PERSON DURING THE EARLY VOTING PERIOD | Thursday, Oct. 24 to Thursday, Oct. 31, 7 a.m. until 8 p.m., at the Westminster Senior Center, South Carroll Senior Center or Coppermine PantherPlex.

BY MAIL-IN BALLOT |  The deadline to request a mail-in ballot via the U.S. Postal Service is Tuesday, Oct. 29. If you prefer to receive your mail-in ballot via web delivery, the deadline to request it is Friday, Nov. 1. Or, you may stop by the office of the Board of Elections to pick up a mail-in ballot daily, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. During early voting and on Election Day, the office is open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Perrone notes that voters also can request to automatically receive a mail-in ballot for each election by asking to be placed on the permanent mail-in ballot list. Voters can make this request and register to vote by visiting The county always needs election judges for early voting and election days. “We have players on the field, but we always need a bench of backup players,” Perrone says. “Election judges have family emergencies or may get sick right before Election Day.” Those interested in applying to be an election judge—a paid position—can register at

It Does – Here’s Why.

The United States has one of the oldest democracies in modern civilization, and our Constitution is the world’s oldest written national framework of government. One of the main pillars of our democracy is the ability to freely and fairly elect our leaders, a right and a civic duty we should never take for granted.

Initially, under the Constitution, only white men older than 21 could vote. The fight for voting rights for all Americans was long and arduous. African Americans earned voting rights when the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments were ratified during Reconstruction after the Civil War. Women couldn’t vote until 1920 with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. Discrimination against African Americans voting persisted until 1965 when Congress passed the Voting Rights Act.

Given that generations before us fought hard for the right to vote and that it is the foundation of our democracy, why are so many apathetic about voting or don’t vote? If your preferred candidate loses, voting could feel like a waste of time, but every vote cast in an election counts.

How many do and don’t vote?

According to the Pew Research Center, voter turnout in the last three national elections—in 2018, 2020, and 2022—was higher than in previous decades. In the 2020 presidential election, 66% of eligible voters cast ballots, the highest rate for a national election since 1900. But, in the 2022 midterm elections, 54% of eligible voters chose not to exercise their right to vote.

In the 2020 presidential election, those numbers were better in Carroll County. Of the 127,693 citizens registered to vote in the county, 99,510—approximately 77%—voted. But even in one of the most contentious presidential elections of voters’ lifetimes, 33% of eligible county voters didn’t want or feel the need to cast a ballot.

How important is voting?

Carroll County native John T. Willis believes that voting is the lifeblood of our democracy. Willis, a former McDaniel College professor, current executive-in-residence at the School of Public Affairs at the University of Baltimore, and voting expert, explained that it “goes back to the founding of our country and based in the design of the democracy that you solicit the opinion of the citizens on a regular basis.”

By supporting a candidate or certain issues, elected officials learn what the electorate thinks and feels through voting. “The more people who vote,” Willis says, “the better the reflection of the public opinion.”

Willis also points out that very close elections happen more often than people think. He notes that in 1919, Albert Cabell Ritchie won the Maryland gubernatorial election by 165 votes. Kweisi Mfume won his first race for Baltimore City Council in 1978 by three votes, and Parren Mitchell won his congressional seat in 1970 by 38 votes. “Every election cycle, somebody in Congress will be elected by less than 500 votes,” he states.

Combating voter apathy

Just because voters are apathetic toward voting doesn’t mean they don’t vote. In the 2020 presidential election, despite Carroll County’s high number of voters, there were write-in votes for Phil Collins and Kanye West, among others. Presumably, some of these voters were interested in the down-ballot races and cast their votes for that reason.

Cheryl Steinbacher, president of the local chapter of the League of Women Voters (LWV), acknowledges that voter apathy is a problem nationwide.

“From my interactions with voters and nonvoters in Carroll County, apathy appears to be more prominent in some young and older individuals,” Steinbacher explains. “Younger people admittedly have a lot on their plates, but I also get the sense they feel they don’t know enough to vote or how their vote matters. Therefore, it doesn’t become a priority.”

“For older individuals, it can be the opposite,” she continues. “Some have just given up. They’ve been there, done that, and got the T-shirt.”

According to Good Party (, voter apathy exists for the following reasons:

  • A feeling of powerlessness.
  • A limited choice in elections.
  • Political cynicism.
  • A lack of political education.
  • Systemic barriers.
  • Media influence.
  • Lack of issue awareness or relevance.
  • Overwhelming systemic complexity.
  • Negative campaigning and partisanship.
  • Social and economic disenfranchisement.

Steinbacher reports that she repeatedly hears about limited choice in elections. “I hear over and over regarding the 2024 election, ‘I don’t want to vote for either [candidate].’ My fear is this will affect overall turnout, especially when there is considerable divisiveness within Carroll County regarding our public and school libraries and other interests. The down-ballot positions can have more impact on our day-to-day lives than the president, and every vote counts.”

Voter education is one area where the LWV is combating voter apathy, particularly the lack of political education and issue awareness or relevance.

“The VOTE411 online voters’ guide ( is nonpartisan and replaced what many of us used to receive in print with local newspapers,” says Steinbacher. provides information about candidates so voters can participate in elections at every level. Steinbacher explains that candidates respond to questions, and their answers appear in their own words at

“While participation is voluntary, the majority of candidates contribute, as they are aware of and appreciate its value,” she says. You also can check your voter registration status, see your ballot, and find your polling place at

In addition, representatives from the local LWV have traveled around the county, providing voter registration opportunities and VOTE411 information cards.

“We also partnered with the Carroll County Board of Elections to provide a voter simulation opportunity at Carroll Community College,” Steinbacher says. Students experienced the actual voting process, using the same machines and forms, and could register to vote and receive VOTE411 information.

Willis directs his students to, a website where voters can find factual information to make informed choices at the polls. “The ideal democracy works best when the voter is informed about the candidates and issues,” Willis says.

Nonvoters: How did they get here?

After the 2020 presidential election, the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University, Ipsos (a data supplier) and NPR, surveyed nonvoters and found that these individuals didn’t participate in the election process because they didn’t think it mattered.

Those surveyed felt that voting doesn’t significantly impact how they live their lives and has nothing to do with how decisions are made in our country. Most cited that they didn’t vote because they didn’t like the candidates versus some issue with the voting process itself.

Willis counters this argument, noting that you don’t have to like the candidates to vote. You can write in a name on the ballot. But, there may be other races in which voters have a vested interest—races on the local level may shape how our schools and libraries are operated, for instance.

Willis points out that many national issues—health care decisions, Supreme Court appointments and decisions, taxes, climate change, conflict in Ukraine and Gaza, and banning books and TikTok,
to name a few—impact our daily lives. The way to bring about change is to vote.

“Capturing the will of the people is important,” Willis says. “And those who don’t vote are letting someone else have the say.”

Steinbacher echoes that sentiment. “Nonvoters have given their power to someone else to decide for them.”

She also points out that the Electoral College process only exists for the office of the president, and majority votes determine all other seats.

“Democracy is at peril,” Steinbacher warns. “Our Constitution says we are a nation ‘of the people.’ If people do not vote, they relinquish their rights to self-governance. With early voting, mail-in voting and in-person voting, the people have more than adequate opportunities to exercise the American right to a free and fair election.”