Early voting gets off to slow start in Harford but picks up

Early voting was off to a slow start in Harford County early on Thursday, the first day voters could cast ballots in the primary election and the first time the county has had more than one early voting site. By midday, however, the turnout had begun to pick up.

The day began with a steady rain, which continued on and off until the afternoon. At two of the four early voting sites, the handful of voters who braved the rain to cast their votes were met with efficient and well-organized election personnel.

No incidents with the voting were reported immediately. At McFaul Activities Center in Bel Air, a shuttle helped take voters from the building to the MVA parking lot, the only place people were allowed to park.

Early voting will run through Thursday, June 19, at the McFaul Center, Edgewood library, Jarrettsville library and the University Center (former HEAT Center) in Aberdeen. All early voting locations will stay open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and all are handicapped accessible.

As of the close of registration for the primary, Harford had 165,244 active registered voters: 68,985 Republicans, 63,316 Democrats and 32,943 voters who are not affiliated with a party or registered with a minor party, according to Dale Livingston, Harford's deputy elections director. Voters not registered Democrat or Republican can vote for school board candidates in their respective county council districts, as that election is non-partisan.

"We expected it to be pretty slow," Jackie Ludwig, chief judge at University Center, said at about 10:30 a.m. The polling site had not clocked in a voter by 10 a.m. but started to get a steady trickle after that.

The voters who did show up called early voting very convenient.

"I am going away and I wanted to get my vote in," Pearl Holland, of Havre de Grace, said at the University Center.

Holland had never voted early before but wanted to make sure to cast her ballot for Cordell Hunter, who was running for Democratic Central Committee and used to be her pastor.

Mitch Shank, of Havre de Grace, was also at the University Center along with his son, Drew, who just turned 19.

"I wanted to be one of the first to vote for [County Executive and Republican gubernatorial candidate] David Craig," said Mitch Shank, a longtime friend of Craig's and a former county councilman and Havre de Grace city councilman.

Drew Shank said he thought the polling site was "pretty busy," noting "there was a little line" when they arrived.

Drew, who is a Republican like his father, said he had not paid much attention to those running in the election "so I just voted for David Craig."

Robert Christian, of Aberdeen, was at the University Center and said early voting "makes sense." He noted he is working on the campaign for Patrick Vincenti, who is running for county council in District E, which includes Aberdeen.

About early voting, Christian said he wanted "to get it out of the way earlier and help Pat Vincenti."

The McFaul Center had been busier than some of the other locations, as election judges counted 223 voters as of about 1 p.m.

"It's been pretty steady," Maggie Mundle, chief judge, said, adding: "There's a lot more [campaign] signs than any of us expected."

"Last year it was over 17,000 [total voters for early voting] here and I think they were saying it was going to be about one-third [of that this year]," she said.

Two Forest Hill voters, Judy and Jack Dettner, weren't especially happy about all the signs.

Jack Dettner called them "a good example of the immaturity of adults, all this stuff filling landfills even more than they're already filled."

He noted he voted for Heather Mizeur in the Democratic primary, explaining he "voted for a pro-environment candidate" who could help address the environmental crisis.

Judy Dettner also voted for Mizeur.

"It's probably a lost vote but I just felt strongly about her policies," she said. "I think she would make a wonderful governor and the first female governor of Maryland."

She added she and her husband are also passionate about casting votes as Democrats.

"We are an endangered species in Harford County, so we want to make sure we get as many Democrats as possible," Judy Dettner said. She added they did research through the League of Women Voters' website.

"People who did not respond [to the League] did not get our vote," she said.

Judy said she liked the idea of early voting as well.

"We like to travel so we're not always around, and this way, we don't have to fill out an absentee ballot," she said. "It's a great thing."

Pam Hershfeld, of White Hall, also said she likes early voting. She declined to say whom she had supported.

"I like it because sometimes I can't vote on Election Day," Hershfeld said, calling Thursday's turnout "very light."

She noted she did not know about the extra voting sites this year and realized later she could have voted at the Jarrettsville location.

Primary Election Day is Tuesday, June 24, when polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in 88 precincts at 65 locations in Harford County.

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