Nearly 6,000 Howard County residents decided to vote early in the 2012 presidential primary election, according to unofficial turnout numbers released by the state Board of Elections.

Early voting took place from March 24 through March 29. The total turnout of 5,951 accounts for 3.24 percent of the county's 183,759 eligible voters.

Howard had three early voting sites: 2,713 people voted at the Ellicott City Senior Center; 2,606 at the Bain Center in Columbia; and 632 at Ridgely's Run Community Center in Jessup.

Democrats turned out 3,639, or 4.16 percent of the party's 87,491 eligible voters. Republicans, meanwhile, turned out 2,066, or 3.68 percent, of the party's 56,192 eligible voters.

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This is the second election in which Maryland has offered early voting. In the 2010 gubernatorial election, turnout was 2.62 percent (4,628 of 176,602) of eligible voters in the primary and 8.37 percent (14,901 of 178,083) in the general.

The official 2012 primary election day is Tuesday, April 3. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.