Early vot­ing in Mary­land be­gins to­day

Large turnout ex­pected be­tween now and Nov. 3

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Luke Broad­wa­ter lbroad­wa­ter@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/ luke­broad­wa­ter

As Mary­lan­ders get their first op­por­tu­nity to cast bal­lots in early vot­ing in the hotly con­tested pres­i­den­tial elec­tion be­tween Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton and Repub­li­can Don­ald Trump to­day, elec­tions of­fi­cials are brac­ing for a record turnout.

More than 430,500 Mary­lan­ders took ad­van­tage of early vot­ing in 2012, the first pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in which it was of­fered. This gen­eral elec­tion con­test is ex­pected to draw more.

“The pat­tern that we’ve seen is an in­crease in early vot­ing for ev­ery elec­tion cy­cle,” said Nikki Baines Charl­son, deputy ad­min­is­tra­tor at the Mary­land State Board of Elec­tions.

Early vot­ers in the 2012 con­test be­tween Demo­crat Barack Obama and Repub­li­can Mitt Rom­ney ac­counted for nearly 16 per­cent of the 2.7 mil­lion bal­lots cast.

“I think you’re go­ing to see very, very high turnout for early vot­ing,” said Todd Eberly, a po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist at St. Mary’s Col­lege of Mary­land. “I want to vote just be­cause I want to put this elec­tion in my rearview mir­ror as quickly as pos­si­ble.”

Early vot­ing runs from to­day through Thurs­day, Nov. 3, at polling lo­ca­tions around the state. The polls are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

For the first time, the state is al­low­ing same-day voter reg­is­tra­tion dur­ing early vot­ing. To reg­is­ter to vote, Mary­lan­ders must bring a doc­u­ment that proves that they live in the state. Same-day reg­is­tra­tion is not avail­able on Elec­tion Day, Nov. 8.

“The first few days we’re go­ing to see a rush. You al­ways have those diehard folks that get out there. We’re ready for them.” Arm­stead B.C. Jones Sr., Bal­ti­more elec­tions di­rec­tor

Nearly 2,000 peo­ple reg­is­tered to vote dur­ing early vot­ing in April. Nearly 1,500 reg­is­tered as Democrats.

Of­fi­cials are open­ing six early-vot­ing lo­ca­tions in Bal­ti­more, nine in Bal­ti­more County, five in Anne Arun­del County, four in Har­ford County, three in Howard County and one in Car­roll County.

More than 257,000 Mary­lan­ders voted early in the April pri­mary — a state record for a pri­mary elec­tion.

About 40,000 peo­ple voted early in each of the large coun­ties of Bal­ti­more, Mont­gomery and Prince Ge­orge’s. The high­est early-vot­ing turnout was in Tal­bot County on the East­ern Shore, where 14 per­cent of eli­gi­ble vot­ers cast bal­lots be­fore Elec­tion Day.

Arm­stead B.C. Jones Sr., Bal­ti­more’s elec­tions di­rec­tor, said he doesn’t see wide­spread en­thu­si­asm for any can­di­date in the city but ex­pects early vot­ers to come out in good num­bers. “The first few days we’re go­ing to see a rush,” Jones said. “You al­ways have those diehard folks that get out there. We’re ready for them.”

The city suf­fered sev­eral prob­lems dur­ing the pri­mary elec­tion — in­clud­ing elec­tion judges who didn’t show up for work — but Jones said of­fi­cials were ready for this week. He said he has enough staff in place. “We’re not re­cruit­ing any more judges,” he said.

The high turnout of the April pri­mary was fu­eled in part by the com­pet­i­tive na­ture of sev­eral races: Clin­ton faced op­po­nent Bernie San­ders, and Trump faced Ted Cruz and John Ka­sich. There were also bat­tles in the House and Se­nate, for Bal­ti­more mayor and many City Coun­cil seats.

Be­yond the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, the bal­lot fea­tures the bat­tle be­tween Demo­crat Chris Van Hollen, Repub­li­can Kathy Szeliga and Green Party nom­i­nee Mar­garet Flow­ers for a rare open Se­nate seat, and con­tests for each of Mary­land’s eight House seats.

The Bal­ti­more may­oral elec­tion pits Demo­crat Cather­ine E. Pugh, Repub­li­can Alan Walden, and Green Party can­di­date Joshua Har­ris. For­mer Mayor Sheila Dixon, a Demo­crat, is wag­ing a write-in cam­paign.

Eberly said he’s not so sure turnout through Elec­tion Day will be up.

“We have the two least pop­u­lar [pres­i­den­tial] nom­i­nees ever in the mod­ern era,” Eberly said. “That typ­i­cally means lower turnout. On the flip side, we have more peo­ple pay­ing at­ten­tion to the race than nor­mal. That usu­ally leads to higher turnout.”

BARBARA HAD­DOCK TAY­LOR/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

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