Mary­lan­ders crowd polls on first day of early vot­ing

Long lines as thou­sands turn out to cast bal­lots in na­tional, state, lo­cal races

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Yvonne Wenger

Delores Moore was hop­ing to beat the rush Thurs­day when she got on a bus and headed to an early-vot­ing cen­ter in North­east Bal­ti­more.

But when she ar­rived at the League for Peo­ple with Dis­abil­i­ties, site of the ear­lyvot­ing cen­ter, she found a line that snaked through the build­ing and kept peo­ple wait­ing more than an hour.

“I just want to get it over with,” the 81-year-old Waverly wom­an­said as she left. “I wanted to beat the crowd, but the crowd beat me.”

Tens of thou­sands of Mary­lan­ders who turned out for the first day of early vot­ing — 125,914 statewide, in­clud­ing about 9,500 in Bal­ti­more — faced long waits at the busiest polling places. But oth­er­wise, they had smooth ex­pe­ri­ences, state and lo­cal of­fi­cials said.

The com­bi­na­tion of the di­vi­sive pres­i­den­tial con­test be­tween Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton and Repub­li­can Don­ald Trump, along with the bat­tle for a rare open Se­nate Ver­netta Mar­shall passes out stickers at the League for Peo­ple with Dis­abil­i­ties.

seat in Mary­land and, in Bal­ti­more, a may­oral elec­tion, is driv­ing early-vot­ing turnout that of­fi­cials and ob­servers ex­pect to set records.

More than 430,000 Mary­lan­ders cast bal­lots dur­ing early vot­ing in 2012, the first pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in which early vot­ing was of­fered.

Early vot­ing con­tin­ues through Thurs­day; polls are open from 8 a.m. un­til 8 p.m. This year for the first time, the state is of­fer­ing same-day voter reg­is­tra­tion dur­ing early vot­ing. A driver’s li­cense, util­ity bill or an­other proof of res­i­dence is re­quired. Same-day reg­is­tra­tion will not be of­fered on Elec­tion Day, Nov. 8.

Arm­stead B.C. Jones Sr., Bal­ti­more’s elec­tions di­rec­tor, said the four-step paper bal­lot process slowed vot­ing on Thurs­day. To save time, he en­cour­aged vot­ers to re­view, mark up and take the sam­ple bal­lots they re­ceive in the mail with them as a guide.

Jones said there were a few mi­nor glitches at the six early-vot­ing cen­ters in Bal­ti­more. For ex­am­ple, the ink from some pens bled through the paper sheets, caus­ing the scan­ner to re­ject bal­lots. Those pens were switched out.

The city’s pri­mary elec­tion in April was marred by ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties, and state of­fi­cials or­dered the re­sults de­cer­ti­fied. State in­ves­ti­ga­tors con­cluded that about 1,700 bal­lots were han­dled im­prop­erly. A to­tal of about 1,200 were scanned into the tally with­out judges ver­i­fy­ing that the vot­ers were el­i­gi­ble, and 500 pro­vi­sional bal­lots were never con­sid­ered.

Jones said of­fi­cials trained more than 3,000 elec­tion judges to work dur­ing the gen­eral elec­tion.

And Jones said he per­son­ally made sure his team packed the pop­u­lar “I voted” stickers, which many city vot­ers com­plained were miss­ing from polling places on pri­mary day.

Voter guide

For a look at the races, go to data.bal­ti­more­sun.com/voter­guide-2016/

Linda H. La­mone, the state elec­tions ad­min­is­tra­tor, said she had not been made aware of any prob­lems any­where in the state. Of­fi­cials op­er­ated six early-vot­ing cen­ters in the city, nine in Bal­ti­more County, five in Anne Arun­del County, four in Har­ford County, three in Howard County and one in Car­roll County.

About 40 peo­ple lined up out­side the McFaul Cen­ter in Bel Air be­fore the polls opened at 8 a.m. A tally posted near the en­trance showed 205 peo­ple voted within the first hour.

Al­fred Liebel, 82, said he has voted in ev­ery elec­tion since 1956. The Bel Air man did not say whether he voted for Clin­ton or Trump, but he said, “I al­ways wanted a woman to run for pres­i­dent.”

“For 200-and-some­thing years, men have messed up this coun­try the best they could,” he said. “So give a woman a chance — maybe she’ll do a bet­ter job.”

More than 50 peo­ple were wait­ing out­side the West­min­ster Se­nior and Com­mu­nity Cen­ter in Car­roll County when polls opened at 8 a.m.

Lola McDer­mott said she wanted to make sure her voice was heard as early as pos­si­ble. “It’s al­ways im­por­tant,” the Finks­burg woman said. “I’m vot­ing for Trump this year be­cause we need change.”

Mileah Kromer, di­rec­tor of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Pol­i­tics Cen­ter at Goucher Col­lege, said con­ven­tional wis­dom holds that nega­tive cam­paign­ing sup­presses voter turnout. So far, this year is prov­ing dif­fer­ent.

“High voter turnout is al­ways good for democ­racy, even if it’s just so peo­ple can get it over with,” Kromer said. Peo­ple wait in line to cast their bal­lots at the Tow­son Univer­sity ad­min­is­tra­tion build­ing. Early vot­ing will con­tinue in Mary­land through Thurs­day.

Roger E. Hartley, dean of the Univer­sity of Bal­ti­more’s Col­lege of Pub­lic Af­fairs, called it “an ur­gency in the air.”

“There’s a sense of, ‘We’re sick of it, but we’ve got to get this over with,’ ” he said.

Be­yond the pres­i­den­tial con­test, Mary­land vot­ers will elect a sen­a­tor and eight House mem­bers.

Many coun­ties are also hold­ing lo­cal elec­tions.

Run­ning for the open Se­nate seat are Demo­crat Chris Van Hollen, Repub­li­can Kathy Szeliga and Green Party nom­i­nee Mar­garet Flow­ers. The win­ner will suc­ceed Demo­cratic Sen. Bar­bara A. Mikul­ski, who is re­tir­ing after 30 years.

Run­ning in Bal­ti­more’s may­oral elec­tion are 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.

Dixon vol­un­teer Joe Ste­wart waved down vot­ers at the League for Peo­ple with Dis­abil­i­ties to hand out a cam­paign flier and ex­plain how they could cast a vote for her. He said he was “guard­edly” op­ti­mistic about Dixon’s chances.

“You got one more chance,” he told vot­ers as they headed into the polling place. Dixon nar­rowly lost the Demo­cratic pri­mary to Pugh.

Dixon vis­ited sites across the city and waved signs at North­ern Park­way and Park Heights Av­enue in North­west Bal­ti­more.

Pugh waved signs along Auchen­toroly Ter­race near the Mary­land Zoo be­fore vis­it­ing with high school stu­dents and stop­ping by the early-vot­ing cen­ter at the Pub­lic Safety Train­ing Cen­ter in North­west Bal­ti­more.

Bob and Dona Gar­vey of Bal­ti­more’s Mo­ravia-Walther neigh­bor­hood walked into the League for Peo­ple with Dis­abil­i­ties be­fore lunchtime ready to vote for Pugh and Clin­ton, to find the wait was an hour. They turned around.

“We’ll be back,” said Bob Gar­vey, 70. “We’re not giv­ing up.”

ALGERINA PERNA/BAL­TI­MORE SUN PHO­TOS

Pam Beams, left, and Louise Tom­lin­son wait to cast their votes at the League for Peo­ple with Dis­abil­i­ties on East Cold Spring Lane in Bal­ti­more. State elec­tions ad­min­is­tra­tor Linda H. La­mone said she was not aware of any polling prob­lems on the first day of vot­ing.

ALGERINA PERNA/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

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