First of eight days of early voting starts in Baltimore County Thursday

When Bonnie Kabara exited her early voting polling place at Arbutus Recreation Center Thursday, she wished to see more female candidates’ names on her Democratic primary ballot.

“It’s still a man’s world in Maryland, I think,” said Kabara, a 66-year-old retired music teacher. She said she didn’t even remember seeing Krish Vignarajah — the sole female candidate for governor — written on her ballot while she voted.

Kabara, like many other Baltimore County residents, decided to vote early because she had other commitments coming up — such as traveling to New Jersey — and didn’t want to miss the opportunity to vote.

Since 2010, Marylanders have been able to vote before designated election days. The change followed a constitutional amendment’s passage in the 2007 Maryland General Assembly, and requirements were established in 2009. Bills passed in 2013’s legislative session also expanded the amount of early voting centers, and the days they’d be open.

According to unofficial early voting counts from the Maryland Board of Elections website updated Monday, 17,560 people voted in Baltimore County out of 505,062 eligible active voters in the first five days of early voting, which began June 14. 1,400 of those people voted at Arbutus Recreation Center in the first five days.

County residents had the opportunity to cast their vote in the gubernatorial election — six major Democratic candidates seek to unseat Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who has 60 percent of likely Democratic-primary voters’ approval, according to a joint Baltimore Sun and University of Baltimore poll. For the office of Baltimore County executive, voters can choose between four Democratic or two Republican candidates. One unaffiliated candidate will join them in the November general election. Voters are also selecting candidates for Maryland General Assembly candidates representing their districts.

Major local elections also include the Baltimore County Board of Education, which is having its first-ever election with 28 candidates vying for seven elected spots, added to the five appointed by the governor. The Baltimore County Council race brought in 29 candidates for the seven council seats up for grabs.

During the 2016 presidential primaries, Baltimore County had more than 300,000 Democrats and over 140,000 Republicans eligible to vote. About 206,000 voted in the primaries that year. Of those voters, 19.2 percent voted early.

Deborah Cremen, the Democratic chief election judge at Arbutus Recreation Center, said Thursday morning the weather usually plays a role in turnout, and with the day’s sunny skies, it “should not be a hindrance whatsoever.”

The Republican chief election judge, Donald Hawkins, said at about 11 a.m. — an hour after polls had opened — they’d had a “steady stream of voters so far.” Neither expected the turnout to be as heavy as the 2016 presidential primaries, and they had no technical issues to report.

Teresa Reed, 63, said she was the second person to vote and it went “real smooth.” Reed, an activity specialist at the Arbutus Senior Center, said the county executive and gubernatorial races were most important to her, noting she wanted to see more help for seniors in the county, and better schools for children.

Sandra Fitzpatrick, 58, said she supported Pete Fitzpatrick, whom she has no familial relation to, in the school board primary election. Of all the races, none stood out to her as being more important than the others.

“They’re all important to me in the time we live in,” said Fitzpatrick, a substitute teacher in Baltimore County schools.

This story has been updated.

lbrennan@baltsun.com

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