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Promote the vote

On-site polling place makes voting a breeze for Charlestown residents

Created date

November 2nd, 2016
Charlestown residents Barbara Carlisle (left) and Phyllis Lansing are among the dozens of volunteers who help make sure Election Day goes smoothly at the Catonsville, Md., Erickson Living community.

Charlestown residents Barbara Carlisle (left) and Phyllis Lansing are among the dozens of volunteers who help make sure Election Day goes smoothly at the Catonsville, Md., Erickson Living community.

On November 8, voters across the country will head to their local schools, community centers, and churches to cast their ballot for the 2016 presidential election. But for residents of Charlestown, exercising their right to vote is even more convenient with a polling place right on the Catonsville, Md., campus. 

For the last 25 years, Charlestown has provided a polling place for more than 2,000 residents as well as registered voters who live outside the Erickson Living community. Charlestown relies heavily on volunteers like Charles Tucker to keep things running smoothly on Election Day. 

A community affair

“We started preparing for the general election as soon as the primary election was over,” says Charles, a Charlestown resident and chief judge. 

Chief judges are responsible for providing instructions to voters, answering questions, and monitoring the activities in the polling place. Charles has spent the last seven months planning every last detail of Election Day.

“I develop a floor plan for our conference center of how everything will be set up,” he says. “This year will be different from 2012 because we switched from electronic voting back to paper ballots so there is a little more involved.” 

Charles organizes about 40 volunteers who work two-hour shifts greeting voters, staffing the information table, and guiding people where to go next. Charlestown’s chapter of the League of Women Voters is among the volunteers. 

The League of Women Voters is a grassroots nonpartisan national political organization comprising women and men working to improve the systems of government. They’ve tackled such issues from child labor and civil rights to the Equal Rights Amendment and the Motor Voter Law. Resident Phyllis Lansing leads the Charlestown chapter.

In preparation for the November election, Lansing and the Charlestown group have helped host registration drives enabling people to register to vote and update their registration information. They also offered assistance with completing absentee ballots. 

“The League also puts out an information guide called Vote 411, which provides information about the candidates who are running for office and where they stand on the issues so that people can make an informed choice,” says Phyllis. 

Voter participation

Charlestown Community Resources Manager Mary Evans and her staff provide logistical support to Charlestown resident-run groups like the election volunteers. 

“There is a very grassroots effort to accommodate everyone who wants to vote. Everything is covered,” says Evans. “This is a very active community, and we expect it will be hopping around here on Election Day. I have a feeling we will see strong numbers of voters coming out because people are so passionate.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, of the 126 million Americans who voted in the 2012 election, citizens age 65 and older held the highest registration rate of any age group at 77%, with a reported 71% of those registered actually casting a ballot. 

With its residents’ active involvement in previous and upcoming elections, it’s no surprise that Charlestown features its own democratically run Resident Advisory Council. 

Designed to act as a liaison between community members, management, and the board of directors, the council serves as a voice for the people who live at Charlestown regarding their comfort, safety, and satisfaction, much like local community associations across the country. 

Committees cover specific areas like groundskeeping, housekeeping, finance, health, and maintenance and engineering. The chairperson from each of those committees meets monthly with his or her staff counterparts to discuss any news or upcoming events happening in the community. 

Charles serves on the Legislative Political Committee, a group that keeps Charlestown residents informed of political matters. The committee is also responsible for inviting candidates running for local office to speak at the community.  

“Unlike the presidential race, candidates running for local office don’t get as much exposure, so voters may not be aware of who is running,” says Charles. “We reach out to the candidates and invite them to come speak here on campus. It gives residents an opportunity to get familiar with who they are.” 

Ex-Governor Martin O’Malley, Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger, and even ex-President Bill Clinton are among some of the politicians who have made an appearance at Charlestown over the years. 

As for this election, Phyllis can’t predict who will win, but she urges people to get out and vote. 

“A lot of people think it won’t make a difference whether or not they vote,” says Phyllis. “But it really does make a difference.”