Throughout the day, a steady stream of voters continued to show up at Laurel's two polling places to cast ballots in local elections for the mayor's office and City Council seats.
There are more than 14,000 eligible voters in Laurel, but low voter turnout has been an issue in nearly all city elections. Some predicted that the spirited mayoral and at-large City Council contested races would bring residents to the polls in droves, but that didn't appear to be the case this afternoon.
According to City Clerk Kim Rau, 66 absentee ballots have been received from voters and 233 residents voted in the three-days of early voting on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
At the Robert DiPietro Community Center in Ward 2, election judge Gwendolyn Boyd said at 1:45 p.m. that 335 residents had cast ballots, and 368 had voted by 3 p.m. at the Municipal Center in Ward 1. Those numbers are expected to get a boost as voters head home from work today, but in the meantime, compared to past elections, those working at the polls and most candidates are pleased with the turnout.
"It has been a steady stream since we opened the doors at 7 a.m., when there were people waiting to vote," said Boyd.
At the Municipal Center, chief election judge William Wellford said compared to the past three elections that he has worked, Tuesday's turnout is an improvement.
"Before we had stragglers at this time of day (3 p.m.), but it's been steady with no lulls," Wellford said. "It's different this year because we have places to vote in two wards now, and considering that half of the voters are at Ward 2, the turnout is good for us."
Wellford estimated there had been between 50 and 75 voters at the Laurel Municipal Center by 8:30 a.m.
In 2008, 402 voters turned out to vote for City Council candidates in uncontested races. This represented 3.4 percent of registered voters, down from the 6.9 percent who voted in 2006, when all the candidates faced challengers.
Second polling place debuts
This year marks the first time that there has been a polling station in Ward 2 and also the first time that voters can only vote for candidates running for council in their ward, with the exception being the citywide at-large council seat and the mayor's office.
City Councilman Frederick Smalls, who faces no opposition for his Ward 2 seat on the council, said he is pleased with having two polling places in both of the city's wards this year.
"This makes it easier for people to get to the polls in their neighborhoods and we've seen people walking to the polls," Smalls said. "It also allows members to concentrate more on their ward's issues and be more responsive to the people they represent."
With a smaller area, Smalls said he and fellow Ward 2 Council member Donna Crary, who is also running unopposed, have been able to attend homeowner's association meetings and have walked their ward more.
"I like this, and there will be no excuse for us as council members not to be responsive to the residents in our wards," Smalls said.
Michael Sarich, who is challenging Mayor Craig Moe, pushed for polling stations in both of the city's wards when he sat on the council and said he is happy that voters are able to cast ballots closer to their homes in Ward 2. He thinks it will help turnout, as he works to get more voters to the polls.
"We have people making calls to get people out to vote and are sending out messages on Facebook," Sarich said. "We're doing our best to get as many people as possible out."
So is Laurel Boys and Girls Club athletic director Adrian Rousseau, who is seeking to unseat at-large City Council member Michael Leszcz, who is also the council president.
"I feel just OK about the turnout," Rousseau said. "I'll be shooting through the neighborhoods and making sure people come to the polls because every vote will be needed."