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Early voting stays slow in Harford, statewide

ElectionsDavid R. Craig

If Harford County voters plan to vote early in this year's primary election, they're clearly trying to do it fashionably late.

According to Maryland Board of Elections statistics, just 2 percent of Harford's eligible voters participated in the first five days of early voting from Thursday through Monday, despite more sites, more days and longer hours to vote in Harford this year.

The turnout has been equally dismal throughout the state, with roughly 2.1 percent of all Maryland voters casting a ballot, according to the state elections board.

For the roughly 132,000 Harford voters registered in the two major parties, there are a number of local primary contests worth having a say in, as well as for Republicans an opportunity to vote for or against native son and county executive David Craig, who is running for their party's nomination for governor.

There are contested primaries in one or both parties for a number of legislative seats and several county council seats, most prominently council president, where more than one candidate is running from both parties. The election for the northern Harford District D council seat will be decided in the two-candidate Republican primary, since no Democrats have filed for the seat.

Harford Democrat and Republican voters are also filling the rosters of their respective central committees, which play an important role in filling any future vacancies that might arise in local elected offices before the next state and county elections in 2018.

In addition, the nearly 33,000 local voters who aren't a member of either party have an opportunity to vote for board of education members in their respective county council districts. This is the first year Harford has elected six seats on the nine-member school board.

But with early voting due to wrap up at 8 p.m. Thursday, the interest has been pretty much ho-hum.

An "off-season" gubernatorial election, coupled with an unusually early primary, has been keeping voters away, Harford's Deputy Elections Director Dale Livingston said Tuesday.

Primary Election Day is June 24.

"It's been pretty slow," she said about all four voting sites. "It's also the primary, it's the first time it's been in June; people are going to be on vacation."

The early voting sites in Harford drew 950 people on the first day Thursday, 850 on Friday, 377 on Saturday, 199 on Sunday and 818 on the Monday, according to the state's unofficial turnout results.

The McFaul Activity Center in Bel Air had the largest turnout, drawing 1,599 of the voters. Jarrettsville library was second-most popular with 588 voters and Edgewood library came in third with 582. The University Center in Aberdeen drew 425 people.

The turnout has been far lower so far than in the 2010 gubernatorial election when early voting was offered at one site, Livingston said.

"Traditionally for Harford County, in a gubernatorial election, you will get anywhere from 62 to 65 percent turnout," she said.

Livingston said the low turnout so far during early voting would not have been caused by the increased number of polling stations.

"It's great," she said about having multiple locations. "I think people appreciate that they have an early voting site closer to where they live."

Livingston said no problems have been reported at any of the polling sites. Although there are no guarantees, she imagines the state would be interested in keeping the four election sites "because it's nice for the voters."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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