Today, as a Maryland resident, I cast my vote for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and congressional representative. I also voted for a state senator, three state house delegates, a county executive, and a county councilman. I then voted for four circuit court judges, three court of special appeals judges, and a state's attorney.

I wasn't done yet.

Next came votes for a sheriff and a clerk of the circuit court. I was then asked to vote for a register of wills and no more than three judges of the orphan's court but declined, primarily because I don't even know what those offices do.

Evidently I'm not alone: the website for the Maryland Orphan's Court introduces itself with something of an apology: "While it has a long history of serving Maryland’s citizens since before the beginning of our nation, the Orphans’ Court remains a mystery to most people." Indeed. While it's nice to know that there are upwards of two dozen officials who report, on some level, directly to me, it also makes me wonder how much representation I really need.

Election day reminds voters of the dazzling diversity of local elected offices that they haven't thought about since the last time they cast a ballot. Dog catchersClerks of court. Soil and water conservation district supervisors. Mosquito control district board members. Drainage district commissioners. Mobile home park recreation district trustees. Many people probably don't know what these offices do, much less have an understanding of the differences between candidates running for them.

The U.S. Census used to count the number of elected officials in the U.S., but it hasn't done so since 1992. In that year 513,200 officials were elected to 85,006 "government units" - that is, state and local governments, as well as school districts and "special districts," like water and sewer districts. That represented one elected official for every 485 citizens, an increase of 15,000 officials from 1987.

Since then, the Census has performed a "census of governments" every five years, with the most recent year being 2012. It finds that the total number of government units has increased to 90,106 since 1992. A quick back-of-the envelope estimate suggests that we're represented by about 540,000 elected officials today, assuming (and this is just an assumption) that the number of officials has increased at a rate similar to the number of government units.

Voters have a hard enough time wrapping their heads around the nuances of candidates' positions in major national rates, so you have to wonder how much deliberation goes into the average vote for an orphan court judge or a mobile home park recreation district trustee, and hence about the wisdom of making little-known offices subject to popular vote. There's also a certain amount of arbitrariness to which positions are decided via election, and which are not. Why do we vote for clerks of court but not the bailiffs? Why do we vote for county judges, but not federal ones?

There's no question that state-level elections matter more than federal ones - John Oliver laid that case out nicely this past weekend. But what do voters gain by having direct control over the appointment of obscure, often highly technical positions at the local level? And are we really doing that great a job of it?