10:44 PM EST, November 4, 2012
If early voting numbers are any indication, the polls will be packed Tuesday on Election Day.
By late Thursday afternoon, an estimated 6 percent of Harford's eligible voters had cast their ballot, leaving plenty of others left to vote on Election Day.
Besides the presidential race, which typically draws a lot of voters, this year's election features a number of controversial statewide issues on the ballot.
"I have no idea, but I would imagine that we'll have another large turnout on Tuesday. The state was expecting Harford County to have 80 to 85 percent turnout," Dale Livingston, deputy elections director for Harford County, said Thursday. "Based on the numbers for early voting, we've got a lot more voters to go."
While the Barack Obama-Mitt Romney race for president is this year's headliner, there are plenty of state and local ballot issues to keep voters interested.
Statewide there are referendum votes on same sex marriage (Question 6), gambling expansion (Question 7) and in-state tuition rates for children of illegal immigrants who attend Maryland state colleges (Question 4). There is also a referendum that, if approved, will void the congressional districts drawn by the Maryland legislature last year and mandate that the redistricting be done over by the governor (Question 5).
Harford County has several charter amendments on its ballot.
There are also races for Congress in the First and Second Districts in Harford and a statewide race for U.S. Senator.
Early voting centers in Harford County did a brisk business Saturday and Sunday before early voting was suspended Monday and Tuesday because of Storm Sandy. The early voting site in Bel Air was busy again when voting resumed Wednesday.
The early voting site remains open through today (Friday) at 9 p.m.
Elections officials in Harford said more than 5,000 people voted early on Saturday and Sunday at the McFaul Activity Center in Bel Air, slightly more than 3 percent of the county's total registered voters.
That number jumped to 6 percent by Thursday afternoon, when, as of 4:15 p.m., 5,600 people had voted over the two days, bringing the early voting total to just about 10,000.
The turnout hasn't surprised Livingston, the Deputy Elections Director.
"Presidential elections are usually pretty big, so there's no surprise about this," she said.
She presumes turnout on Election Day will follow suit.
Wendy Sawyer, chair of Harford's Democratic Central Committee, said in an email her group is "pleased with the early voting numbers and expect them to increase over last time and, more importantly, to increase significantly in 2014 when the county has more than one location."
She said she expects high voter turnout among Democrats comparable to 2008, and think they'll come out in large numbers to support President Barack Obama and Congressional candidates.
"Democrats understand that going back to the Bush doctrine of making sure the rich prosper at the expense of the middle class is wrong for this country. We must ensure that we can continue going forward with the policies that pulled us out of a near depression, one. That was a result of the eight years Bush was in office," Sawyer wrote.
Making history in Harford
This presidential election will be historic for Harford County in one respect: It will be the first since the national Republican Party fielded its first presidential candidate in 1856 that the party has more registered voters in Harford than do the Democrats.
With registration closed for this election, Harford's board of elections counted 63,527 Democrats and 67,459 Republicans on Wednesday, new elections director Kevin Keene said. There are 28,924 voters who are either unaffiliated or belong to recognized third parties.
The total number of active registered voters in Harford is 159,940, which is 10,000 more than the 149,651 registered for the 2008 presidential election.
In 2008, Harford had 64,883 registered Democrats and 62,410 registered Republicans, so while the Republicans have gained more than 5,000 voters in the ensuing four years, the Democrats have lost 1,300. The ranks of the unaffiliated or third party voters have increased by more than 6,000, growing faster than either major party.
Voter turnout in Harford in the 2008 presidential election between Obama and John McCain was 82.7 percent.
This year, Harford residents also will be voting on seven charter amendments, as well as the same seven ballot questions everyone in the state will vote on.
Among the charter amendments are one to allow former county council members to be employed by county government immediately after leaving office, instead of waiting the current minimum of two years (Question B) and another requiring that a vacancy in the office of county executive be filled by someone of the same political party (Question A).
Also on the Harford ballot is Circuit Court Judge M. Elizabeth Bowen, who is unopposed for continuance in office on a 15-year term.
One of the more controversial questions on the Maryland ballot this year is Question 6 that, if passed, would allow gay and lesbian couples to obtain a civil marriage license.
Havre de Grace City Councilman Joe Smith, who is openly gay and been with his partner for 25 years, said he is "cautiously optimistic" that it will pass. He had not voted as of Thursday, but intended to cast his ballot in favor of Question 6 either today (Friday) or Tuesday.
The final vote probably will be close, he said, but pointed out the question needs only one more than 50 percent of the vote.
"I tell people to make sure you're not the one vote that didn't put us over. Don't take a chance, get out there and vote, that's what I tell people," Smith said. "We won't know until it's over, but I think we've done what we needed to do," he said.
The pro-Question 6 movement has been pretty well-organized, Smith said, doing continuous fundraising, and any misinformation has been countered quickly.
The effort to get Question 6 passed has been a positive approach, Smith said, without trying to attack anyone, or their values or morals.
"We've tried to focus on the benefits, the equality marriage brings," Smith said.
Congressional, Senate races
Incumbent U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin is opposed by Republican Daniel John Bongino, Libertarian Dean Ahmad and independent S. Rob Sobhani.
In the First Congressional District, which includes central and northern Harford County, incumbent Congressman Andy Harris, a Republican, is expected to have little trouble in securing his second term in the House of Representatives.
Though her name will still be on the ballot, Democrat Wendy Rosen dropped out of the race several weeks ago after admitting she had voted in an Florida election while also registered to vote in Maryland. Her withdrawal, however, came after the ballot closed.
Libertarian Muir Wayne Boda's name also appears on the First District ballot. Democrats, meanwhile, have tried to mount a write-in campaign on behalf of John LaFerla, who narrowly lost to Rosen in the primary election.
In the Second Congressional District, which includes southern Harford and parts of Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties and Baltimore City, five-term incumbent Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger, a Democrat, is opposed by Republican Nancy Jacobs, a state senator from Edgewood, who represents Harford and Cecil counties in Annapolis. Libertarian Leo Dymowski is also on the ballot.
Go to http://www.harfordvotes.info/ or http://www.ccgov.org/election_bd for more information on the general election.
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