A prominent Greek statesman named Pericles once said, “Just because you don’t take an interest in politics, doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.”
Every four years in Maryland, voters exercise their right to vote at both the state and local levels. Elections have always been billed as a “time for change.” But the 2018 elections, with the Maryland primary on June 26, will usher in a greater amount of change than usual. In November of 2016, voters in Montgomery County overwhelmingly approved, by close to 70 percent, a charter amendment that limits the offices of county executive and county council to three consecutive four-year terms. As a result, four incumbent councilmembers and the county executive will be required to relinquish their seats.
So why, you may ask, is this election more important than others? As we say on Passover, why is this night different from all other nights? Or in this case, why is this election different from others? I believe this election is unlike anything we’ve seen before. There is incredible enthusiasm amongst the electorate. We are seeing grassroots advocacy movements forming on some very powerful issues. Our young people are becoming more engaged. People who for years have been behind the scenes working on campaigns, for the government, the nonprofit community, the private sector, or in our public-school system, have put themselves forth as candidates.
In the Montgomery County Council at-large race we have 38 candidates running to fill four vacant seats. That’s a record number for the primaries, with 37 candidates on the ballot. Thirty-three are in the Democratic primary and four are in the Republican primary. The remaining candidate is seeking to be nominated by the Green party to appear only on the general election ballot. With all these choices, it’s extremely important to pay attention to the primary races this year and make sure you’re registered to vote.
For close to 18 years, I have worked in Maryland state and local politics. For years, I’ve talked (OK, really nudged strongly) my family and friends to become active in local advocacy. Well, now is their chance because their advocacy, and yours, really does matter. Your vote can make a difference in the direction of our county.
We’ve heard the famous phrase that “all politics is local.” This election presents a real opportunity for voters to define the issues in their own backyard that are most important. What happens when my street isn’t plowed during a snowstorm? Why is that pothole still there? What can be done to protect my children from gun violence? What can be done to combat hate crimes? Where do my property tax dollars go? How do we protect our safety net programs and help those most vulnerable in our community? How can we ensure our faith-based institutions have security needs funded? How can we fight poverty in our community, so no one goes hungry?
Before you head to the polls this June and November, remember that a democracy is only as strong as those who participate in it. Now is the time to get involved — don’t miss this opportunity. Empower yourself by meeting with candidates individually, attending debates, hosting a coffee at your home, or even volunteering for a campaign. If you do not make your voice heard, you are leaving the future of your community up to others to define. Remember, if you aren’t at the table, then you’re probably on the menu.
By Meredith R. Weisel
Meredith R. Weisel, Esq. is the director of Maryland government and community relations for the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Greater Washington.
June 5, 2018: Deadline to register to vote or change your party affiliation.
June 14-21, 2018: Early voting for the Primary Election.
June 26, 2018: Primary Election.
For more information, contact the State Board of Elections: http://elections.state.md.us/index.html.