Updated: Mar 29, 2020
Engage Mountain Maryland is expanding the You+2 initiative that encourages residents to register and pledge to vote in the midterm elections. The plus 2 asks those pledging their vote to find two more friends, family members, or co-workers to do the same. As part of the roll-out, posters popped up around Oakland to ignite voter turnout at the town’s March 12th election. Participation exceeded all expectations and all recent records with over 300 Oakland residents casting their ballots.
Volunteers observed while polling was taking place to gain an understanding about who participated in the election. Visual assessments were made about voter age and gender as well as identifying peak voting times. SEE FULL SUMMARY
“It seemed like each day new people were filing to run for office as the deadline approached,” said Mark Stutzman, EMM President. “Our goal with You+2 is coming to fruition. Citizens anxious to represent and lead their town into the future is so positive. It’s thrilling to see.” Stutzman feels the candidates that filed are very courageous and deserve the support of their community through robust voter turnout.
The nonpartisan, nonprofit organization wanted to reach Oakland residents using merchant door posters and counter cards to remind people of the pending town election that was just weeks away. With Oakland’s election falling earlier than the primary, Stutzman said it could easily be missed even by registered voters who are faithful to casting their ballot.
EMM has also built an elections web page where Garrett County residents can learn more about who is running, and for which offices, from Maryland’s Governor to local elections. Campaign messages and links to candidate websites are quickly accessible. The site will be updated as new information is made available. Voters are encouraged to visit engageMMD.org/you-plus-2 to review candidates before they head to the polls.
Getting to know candidates has never been easier, according to Stutzman. “The internet is a fantastic tool for people to learn about anyone running for public office.” Candidates are also encouraged to review their online campaign information and submit their photo and campaign messages to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I would like to see the times for future Oakland elections extended to accommodate working folks,” says Stutzman. Polling hours were from 9:00AM-6:00PM unlike national polling hours that run 8:00AM-8:00PM. "Adding those extra hours before and after the standard workday could change participation dramatically."
Another effort through the You+2 initiative is to gather unregistered, age-eligible voters that may include high school students coming of age before the June primary or general election in November. Some students may not be thinking ahead about their eligibility and miss an entire year of voting. Garrett County is doing well with an impressive 81 percent voter registration rate, according to the Garrett County Board of Elections.
“Voter turnout is another story,” says Kate Brodie, EMM Board Member. “This initiative is looking to improve that by encouraging Garrett County residents to be part of making national headlines by achieving the highest per capita voter participation in the 2018 midterm elections. It would be a great point of pride and example for other communities.”
Trained voter registrants, Brodie and Maxine Shindel,volunteer, will be on-hand at Garrett College during lunch hours on March 28, April 12 and on April 24 between the hours of 11:00AM and 1:00PM. The pair kicked off this effort on March 12 with assistance from Garrett College student group leaders. These dates were scheduled to insure registrants will be ready for the primary held in June. Those who take the pledge in person will be given a You+2 button to show they're committed to voting. Additionally, Brodie and Shindel want to work with Northern and Southern High Schools to assist with voter registration as well.
Anyone interested in registering on their own can visit the user-friendly online platform, RockTheVote. The website allows visitors to enter their zip code to get registered online. Simply select the box titled "Get Ready To Vote" to begin the process.
Additionally, the Allegany County NAACP Branch 7007 is launching their own You+2 message to excite voters in their membership and within their community. EMM happily shares the initiative to help with other voter drives.