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Turnout low in first day of early voting

ElectionsStephanie Rawlings-BlakeOtis RolleyMarc SteinerCatherine E. PughJoseph T. Landers, III

Baltimore voters trickled into polling places for the first day of early voting in the citywide primary elections, prompting the director of the city elections board to describe turnout as "really bad."

By 5 p.m., Thursday, 994 of the city's 369,651 registered voters had cast ballots, according to Abigail Goldman, deputy director of the Baltimore City Board of Elections.

That's a turnout of 0.3 percent.

The city's five early-voting locations were prepared.

Board of Elections director Armstead B. Crawley Jones Sr. reported no problems.

"Today went exceptionally well," he said. "The only disappointment was the voters."

This is the first year that the city has opened the polls early to allow voters to cast ballots before a primary. The General Assembly mandated early voting across the state in 2009 in an effort to increase voter turnout.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake cast her ballot at a polling spot in Northwest Baltimore. She was joined by her mother.

Former city planning director Otis Rolley toured the five early-voting locations, and state Sen. Catherine E. Pugh and former Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors Vice President Joseph T. "Jody" Landers were also slated to stop by polling places.

In overwhelmingly Democratic Baltimore, the mayoral contest is generally decided in the party primary.

Just 28 percent of Baltimore voters cast ballots four years ago in the last mayoral primary. Rawlings-Blake told WEAA's Marc Steiner on Thursday that she thought the "negativity" of her challengers' campaigns would lead to low turnout in the race.

Early voting will continue through Saturday, then pick up again on Sept. 6 and continue through Sept. 8.

Registered voters may cast ballots at any of the early voting locations: Edmondson-Westside High School at 501 Athol Ave., the League for People With Disabilities at 1111 E. Cold Spring Lane, the Moravia Park Drive Apartments at 6050 Moravia Park Drive, the Public Safety Training Center at 3500 W. Northern Parkway or St. Brigid's Parish Center at 900 S. East Ave. Each is open from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m.

The primary will be held on Sept. 13.

Jones said he was disappointed that early turnout was so low on the first day of the inaugural year.

"This has been a completely quiet election period," he said. "I don't see people energized and motivated to vote, let alone to support somebody."

julie.scharper@baltsun.com

http://twittter.com/juliemore

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