Voting pace, and temperatures, brisk at polls in Baltimore County

Lines were growing late Tuesday morning at Towson's polling places, but election officials reported little confusion and even less problems as the pre-lunch rush began on Election Day in Baltimore County.

"It hasn't let up since we opened the doors," Francis MacDougall, an election judge at Dumbarton Middle School, said.

MacDougall was supervising voting near the Dumbarton gym, which was the temporary polling place for Stoneleigh residents while Stoneleigh Elementary is under construction.

Both MacDougall and Ed Matricardi, his contemporary at Towson High School — the other temporary voting location for Stoneleigh residents — reported about that just a handful of people tried to vote at the wrong location, but no more than in previous years.

Matricardi said wait times reached an hour at the high school earlier this morning, though it was down to 15 minutes around 11 a.m.

Chief Judge Pat Jakelski, who was overseeing polling for voters who normally vote at Towson High, reported no problems with voting machines, but said turnout was heavier than usual.

Brenda Bechdel, 48, commiserated with neighbors who were waiting in the growing late-morning line, but said she waited just 15 to 20 minutes to cast her ballot.

"We've never seen lines like this," she said. "And it's not that they're not being efficient. I just think more people care this year."

Colin Stine, 57 of Idlewylde, let out a sigh of relief after casting his ballot at Dumbarton.

Despite the lines, he said he votes every election and had strong feelings about several of the candidates.

"This is a huge turnout," he said. "The line was this long at 7 o'clock, and it's still going."

Voters leaving Ridge Ruxton School around 12:30 said they waited around 40 minutes, which Chief Judge Bonita Pinkney said were the locations longest waits of the day.

"Turnout has been great," Pinkney said. "We're getting over 100 voters per hour."

Voters in Baltimore County and across the state are making their choice for the next president of the United States, but also representatives in Congress, a U.S. Senator and more than a handful of ballot questions that have generated months of controversy and debate.

The Baltimore Sun reported early that some 100 people waited in line at Rodgers Forge Elementary School early on Tuesday, and that waits at Dumbarton Middle School were more than an hour — in part because of some confusion as two polling precincts were combined into one location.

The Sun reported that by 8:15 a.m., lines had thinned and the confusion dissipated as voters shivered in the morning's cool temperatures.

In addition to offices and ballot questions, Baltimore County voters are also deciding several bond referendums that relate to spending on schools and other facilities.

Polls are open in the county until 8 p.m.

When election judges showed up at Hereford High School at 6:30 this morning to prepare for the general election, they found about 45 people already waiting in line. The polls opened at 7 a.m.

By 10:30 a.m., some 394 people had already voted and the line stretched through the lobby and around the building. The precinct has 2,554 registered voters, according to the Baltimore County Board of Elections.

Earlier, two precincts at Sparks Elementary School saw a total of 723 voters in the first three hours. The combined number of voters in the two precincts is 4,367.

Further north at the Parkton American Legion, lines were small at 11 a.m. where 285 of the 1,066 registered voters had voted.

Election judges at all four precincts said there were no problems other than long lines. A judge in precinct 801 at Sparks said one person questioned the ballot, unaware that redistricting meant he is now in the 7th Congressional District, not the 6th.

By 7 a.m. at Catonsville High School, about 100 stood in a line that snaked around the corridor to the gym door.

"We were hoping there were going to be big lines," said Bill Turner, of Catonsville.

"There are critical ballot issues," Tom Goodman, of Catonsville, said. "It's a celebration of the end of all the ads," he added with a laugh. "And the phone calls."

Early voting wasn't an option for Elizabeth Snouffer, though she tried, stopping Sunday at the Bloomsbury Community Center. "I got there and the line was so long I just kept going," said Snouffer, who waited to vote with her daughter Rosa Snouffer.

Louise Ricketts, a Catonsville native, has been volunteering for campaigns since the days of Kennedy and Nixon. Today, she was campaigning for Question 6, the referendum on gay marriage.

"I've had a lot of people really down about it," she said. "And I've had quite a few that are, 'Yes! I'm for it.' "

Sharing the sidewalk with her was the Rev. David Casey, a campaigner for the DREAM Act.

"I want to be sure there's an educated workforce when I retire," said the son of an immigrant mother. It's really a question of fairness, he added. "There should be one Maryland where we can all work together," he said.

When the polls opened at the Arbutus fire hall, the line of voters stretched out the door. But the line moved quickly and voters waited only 15 minutes to cast their ballots.

Hilda Moore, of Arbutus, was in line by 7:15 a.m. Usually an after-work voter, she had decided to try voting early. "I vote every time there's an election," she said.

So does Julie Cannon, an Arbutus voter especially concerned about Question 6. "I consider voting to be extremely important," she said.

Tony Massimini, the Democratic chief election judge in Arbutus, estimated that about 150 had voted by 7:30 a.m.

"We've had a great turnout this morning," he said and then added that he expects the polls to be packed when the work day ends.

Mark Mangus had already been working for three hours when he took a break to come to the polls. "It was a good stopping point so I though I'd come down and get my vote in," he said.

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