Republicans Pick Up Voters in Cecil County, Party Divide Grows Between Democrats and GOP
Republicans have picked up a wider share of Cecil County registered voters in the run-up to the state and local primary elections later this month, while new voters boosted the number of all registered voters, according to new, initial figures from the county’s Board of Elections on Wednesday.
The deadline to register to vote, or to change political party affiliations, was 9 p.m. on Tuesday 4/5/16, but voters could mail their request, as long as it was postmarked by that deadline. So, depending on the slowness of mail delivery, it could take a few days before the final official registration tally is computed. But elections officials said that would probably be just a few additional voters added to the rolls.
As of Wednesday morning, Cecil County recorded a total of 63,585 registered voters—up from the 2014 general election tally of 61,991 registered voters. This year, Republicans account for 26,295 voters while Democrats number 22,507—a difference of 3,788. So-called “unaffiliated” or independent voters were 13,732, while Libertarians numbered 352. The Green Party listed 128 voters in the county and 571 were counted as “other.”
In contrast, in the last general election in 2014, the divide between Republicans and Democrats was a smaller gap of 1,775 votes in Cecil County. So the Republican Party has about doubled its party advantage over Democrats since the last election. The number of unaffiliated voters rose slightly, from 13,288 two years ago to the current 13,732.
Some of the registration shifts reflects national political trends, which show a rise in newly registered Republican voters, energized by the dramatic and bitterly-fought GOP primary campaign for President.
But in Cecil County, as the local Democratic Party organization has all but folded up its tent and disappeared in the past few years, some longtime Democrats and independents have switched to GOP registration because many local contests will be decided in the Republican primary since no Democrats are running for the general election. Switching party affiliation gives those voters a say in a crowded GOP primary to select the ultimate winner, while if they stayed Democrat or unaffiliated, they would have no voice in the county’s political future.
Elections board officials did not have cumulative figures on the numbers of party affiliation switches during the current election cycle since the last general election.
The AWOL stance of the local Democratic Party is a sad state of affairs since Democrats held a majority registration advantage for many years in the county, with most local Democrats being moderate to conservative in ideology. In the last election, Democrats put up a few last-minute candidates in several races to keep up at least an appearance of a two-party system in the county, while two long-time Democratic incumbents—Del. David Rudolph and Register of Wills Lyn Price Nickle —went down to defeat by GOP newcomers. This year, the local Democratic Party has gone into full hiding mode.
Only one Democrat is running for office in Cecil County this year: Wayne Tome, the mayor of Port Deposit and a former Cecil County Commissioner. Tome made his last-minute decision to run for county executive on his own, with encouragement from independents, some Democrats and even some Republicans, so as to preserve some choice on the November general election ballot. Tome is unopposed in the Democratic primary so he will face-off in November with the winner of the four-candidate Republican primary for County Executive.
Two Cecil County Council seats—in Districts 1 and 5– will be determined in the Republican primary since no Democrats have filed to run. District 1, covering the south county, is currently represented by County Council Vice President Alan McCarthy (R), who chose to run for County Executive instead of seeking re-election to his Council seat. In District 5, Council President Robert Hodge (R) is retiring after two terms on the Council.
Two Republicans have filed in the contests for each seat, giving GOP primary voters the power to decide who will fill those Council positions, with no opposition on the November general election ballot. There are also contested party primary races in both the Democratic and Republican parties for US Senate and the District 1 seat in the US House of Representatives.
Also appearing on the local ballot in April are non-partisan races for two seats on the county School Board. Unaffiliated voters can vote for school board but cannot vote in party primaries for county executive or county council contests.
The primary election will be held with in-person voting in local precinct polling places on Tuesday April 26. In-person early voting will begin April 14, with a lone early voting center open at the county Administration Building on Chesapeake Blvd. in Elkton, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day during the early voting period, which ends on April 21.