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Baltimore County residents face long lines for early voting

A unique combination of circumstances produced a deluge of voters over the weekend as county residents took advantage of early voting at the county's voting centers.

In addition to many voters' desires to make sure their choices were recorded, this fall's hotly-contested presidential election, concerns about possible power outages caused by Hurricane Sandy closing early voting later in the week and a number of controversial questions on the ballot led to huge lines at the centers in Randallstown, Perry Hall, Towson, Dundalk and Catonsville.

"I knew we would have people coming out because of (Hurricane) Sandy," said Katie Brown, director of the state's Board of Elections at the board's headquarters in Catonsville. "But I never thought, in my wildest dreams, that people would spend three to five hours waiting (to vote)."

Lines began forming at 10 a.m. at the facility, which is open to all county residents.

The early voting period was canceled for Oct. 29 due to the storm, but continues from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Nov. 2.

Brown said she was greeted by a line slowly forming in front of the building when she arrived at 10 a.m., even though the facility did not open until noon on Sunday.

"I wanted to get it done and over with," said Catonsville resident Joe Roper, who said he arrived some time after 11:30 a.m. and had voted by 12:30 p.m.

But Michael Delano left at 12:30, saying he couldn't wait any longer and gave up 45 minutes after he arrived without having voted.

Those who arrived at the voting center on Bloomsbury Avenue in Catonsville at the time Roper was voting on Sunday and doggedly remained did not get to the touch screen to cast their vote until after 3:30 p.m.

"I wanted to get it done," said Joe Stevens. "The rest of the week is a question mark because of the weather.

"It's much more convenient," said the Catonsville resident. "I don't have to miss time from work and you can do it on your own time."

Brown said nearly 800 people at the Bloomsbury center had voted in the first three hours on Oct. 28.

That pace was similar to the 1,618 votes cast at 8 p.m. Oct. 27.

She cautioned that Saturday's total did not include more than 100 county residents in line before 8 p.m. but had not voted when the polling place officially closed.

Considering alternatives

Catonsville resident Denise Garman said she and her husband, Bill, were making their third attempt Sunday after twice being dissuaded by the long lines on Saturday.

"I wanted to vote when people don't know which way the vote was going," she said.

Bill Garman said he was not deterred by the number of questions on gambling, redistricting, same-sex marriage and in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants, provided they met certain standards.

"I like having all the choices," he said. "That's what government is all about. But it does make for long waits in line."

During the first weekend of early voting during the March primary election, 2,351 county residents had cast their votes for their party's candidate for president, senate, House of Representatives, circuit court judges and delegates to the parties' national conventions.

The voting center at the Randallstown Community Center nearly matched that total on Saturday.

Brown said the center had 2,187 votes cast on the first day of early voting, followed by Honeygo Run Community Center (1,767), Catonsville, Towson (1,395) and North Point Library (1,281).

She said four additional machines were brought into service at Randallstown while each of the other four centers had two additional voting machines installed on Sunday to handle the growing number of voters

"I was prepared for what we've been through the last time," Brown said on the preparations that included testing each machine before it was put on the floor.

"The rooms can't handle any more," Brown said. "Sure, I could put 100 machines in. But where would I put the people? If I put extra machines in, I would have to put more people outside."

Brown said those in line have been great and she had heard few negative comments from those in line.

"They're serious," she said. "There are some serious voters out there."

Mattie Spencer was not bothered by the wait, even though it usually took much less time when she voted at her normal polling place at Woodlawn High.

Spencer said she has been voting for more than 50 years and came out Sunday to make sure her vote was counted.

"This isn't so bad," she said.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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