Early voting opens Thursday; lots at stake in Harford elections

Allan Vought
Contact Reporteravought@theaegis.com
Planning on voting early? You can vote beginning Thursday.

Harford County voters and those around the state can start casting their ballots Thursday when seven days of early voting open for the Nov. 4 general election.

In addition to statewide races for governor, comptroller and attorney general, dozens of Harford County offices are at stake, as well as the two congressional seats that cover the county.

Also on the ballot are candidates for six seats on the Harford County Board of Education, the first time all six elected seats on the board will be filled in one election.

The early voting sites in Harford are: McFaul Activity Center in Bel Air, Edgewood library, Jarrettsville library and University Center at HEAT in Aberdeen. They will be open each day of early voting from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Early voting closes Oct. 30.

This will be the first general election with four early voting sites in Harford; there was just one site in 2008 and again in 2010. The four sites also were open for the June 4 primary.

Staff at the Harford Board of Elections, poll workers and election judges are ready to man the four stations, Deputy Elections Director Dale Livingston said Tuesday.

All the voters need to do is "just show up and vote," she added.

Livingston and other election officials have said they don't know what to expect for the general election early voting because the overall primary turnout was so low.

She did note, however, that all four Harford sites saw some of their busiest traffic the final two days. In all, 6,261 Harford voters cast early ballots in the primary, less than 4 percent of the total eligible to vote in the election.

For the general election, approximately 166,650 active voters were registered in Harford as of the close of registration last week. The names of another 8,250 are on the rolls and are classified as either "inactive" or "pending."

Inactive voters haven't voted in the past two federal elections, according to the state board of elections. Legal rulings have declared that an inactive voter is to be considered the same as an active voter and can vote at the same precinct they are registered if they present proof of residency; otherwise, they would be given a provisional ballot until residency is established.

A report on voting and election administration done by the Schaefer Center for Public Policy for the State Board of Elections states more than 18,000 inactive voters cast ballots in the 2012 presidential election, about 0.7 percent of the total ballots cast.

A pending voter's registration hasn't received final approval, meaning the voter may have to cast a provisional ballot until the final approval is received.

"I plan as if all of them will show up," Livingston said of the 174,898 active, inactive and pending voters on the county's rolls for the general election.

Among local offices being contested this year are county executive, county council president and four of six district council seats. Two incumbent council members, Joe Woods and Chad Shrodes, are unopposed but their names will be on the ballot.

The races for sheriff, state's attorney and clerk of the circuit court are also contested; however, Register of Wills Derek Hopkins has no opponent, nor does Circuit Judge Yolanda Curtin, who is seeking a 15-year term on the bench. Their names will likewise be on the ballot.

Harford voters will also be choosing their representatives in the Maryland General Assembly: eight members of the House of Delegates and three members of the State Senate in the three legislative districts that cover the county.

There are two county charter questions on the ballot and two state constitutional questions.

Local Question A is a charter amendment to expand the duties of the county auditor to permit operational and performance audits, in addition to financial audits. The amendment also clarifies that the auditor can inspect records of any agency or organization that receives county funds.

Local Question B is a charter amendment that removes classified protections for deputy department directors, making them at-will employees who serve at the pleasure of the county executive, also subject to their appointments being confirmed by the county council.

Anyone who needs to vote by absentee ballot must submit an application to the county elections office. The last day to request an absentee ballot delivered by mail or fax is Tuesday, Oct. 28, or via the Internet by Friday, Oct. 31. After those dates, a voter must apply in person at the elections office at 133 Industry Lane, in Forest Hill up to and including Election Day. Call 410-638-3565 for an application or information.

Absentee ballots are due at elections office by the close of the polls on Election Day. If mailed, the ballot must be postmarked before or on Election Day and received by the elections office by 10 a.m. on Nov. 14.

Harford's 65 polling places will be open on Election Day, Nov. 4, from 7 a.m to 8 p.m.

For more election information visit http://www.harfordvotes.info.

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