By Brenda Wintrode and Kaitlyn Francis
Capital News Service
CHESTER, Maryland — William Snyder’s work boots scuffed along the parking lot pavement as he left the Kent Island, Maryland, polling place.
The 69-year-old soybean and corn farmer wore hunting camouflage coveralls, a dust-covered ball cap and a light blue face mask. He had just cast his vote inside the volunteer fire department for Republican President Donald Trump because of the president’s “past results” on the economy and the trade war with China.
“He helped the farmers stay alive,” said Snyder, a lifelong Queen Anne’s County resident, pointing to last year’s grain subsidies and the $1,200 federal stimulus check that benefited him.
In 2019 the U.S. Department of Agriculture gave farmers $16 billion in subsidies, a result of a relief program requested by Trump.
Exit polls revealed most Kent Island voters who spoke with Capital News Service were motivated by taxes and an improved economy to vote for Trump. Others pointed to his handling of foreign relations. But when asked about either topic, few outlined further details.
Registered Republicans make up 50% of the county electorate, 29% are Democrats, and just under 19% are unaffiliated, according to the Maryland State Board of Elections website.
Lisa Udoff, 53, of Chester, Maryland, said she voted for Trump because of his economic plans.
“Looking past all of the politics, he’s done well,” she said. “He’s made peace with other countries.” When asked for specifics, Udoff did not name a country.
Udoff said she supported Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I don’t think any country knows what to do with this,” she said. “I don’t think any one person can fix this.”
Calvin Ludwig, who works at a guitar factory, said the president got his vote because of the administration’s Middle East negotiations and the three Supreme Court appointments during his first term.
The 22-year-old Chester resident told Capital News Service he approves of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Banning travel from China and Europe very early on; I don’t think any major mistakes were made in January and February,” said Ludwig. Trump issued a China travel ban on Jan. 31 and a European travel ban on March 11.
One 60-year-old home health care worker from Grasonville said former Vice President Joseph Biden, D, got her vote because she feels he has the country’s best interest at heart.
“This world is worrying me,” said Angel Fisher, 60. “I don’t like Trump. He’s not treating this world right.”
Retiree Carolyn Brooks said she voted for Biden because “he respects people of all colors.”
“He believes all people should have healthcare,” Brooks said through her face mask, snug in a gray parka and black ball cap. The Chester resident said Biden is not perfect, “but he’s concerned about the condition of the world, the poor, our children and those less fortunate.”
Long celebrated as a regional vacation spot and known for its farming and seafood industries, the state’s gateway to the Eastern Shore has voted for a Republican candidate in the last five presidential elections. In 2016, 64% of the county voted for Trump in an electorate where 76% of eligible voters cast a ballot.
Mike Arntz, chairman of the Queen Anne’s County Republican Central Committee predicted the county and most of its Eastern Shore neighbors will vote for Trump in 2020.
Arntz was elected to chair the committee in 2018 and also works as a community liaison for the state’s only Republican in Congress, Rep. Andy Harris. He said his committee has raised funds to purchase yard signs and advertising space on two billboards on Route 50 that feature photos of Trump in hopes of targeting tourists from Pennsylvania and Virginia.
“Because, unfortunately, we realize he’s not likely to win Maryland,” Arntz said.
Arntz said the committee would not have an organized volunteer presence on Election Day because Republicans dominate the registered voter rolls.
“We don’t really feel like we have to watch as closely as, maybe, as Republicans might need to watch in some other counties,” he said.
The chair of the county’s Democratic Central Committee says she understands Democratic voters are outnumbered.
“We’re hoping for the rest of the state to save us,” said Chairwoman Elaine McNeil.
McNeil told Capital News Service the committee has about 20 volunteers watching the county’s four polling stations throughout the day for possible voter intimidation.
“We haven’t done it for years,” McNeil said. “So, I mean, I guess that’s an indicator in itself.”
In October, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, D, released a statement reminding Marylanders that voter intimidation was illegal and that his office would be prosecuting offenders.
A spokeswoman for the Queen Anne’s County Board of Elections said Friday that voting operations in the county had so far run smoothly.
As of Monday, 82% of the county’s mail-in ballots had been received, according to the Maryland State Board of Elections.
Queen Anne’s County had the second-highest early voter turnout in the state, according to an unofficial State Board of Elections’ count. Just over 42% of eligible county voters cast their ballots during early in-person voting compared to 30% in 2016. Garrett County had the highest early-voter turnout at 46%.