Hurricane Sandy was no deterrent for early voters in Harford County over the weekend. It was even an incentive for many of them to come out and do their civic duty before the storm hit Monday.
"I think everybody was worried about the storm and they came in and [voted]," Dale Livingston, Harford Board of Elections deputy director, said Sunday afternoon.
They had good reason to be concerned. Early voting was suspended Monday and Tuesday as Sandy hit Harford, but early voting at the McFaul Center in Bel Air, Harford's sole early voting location, was expected to resume today (Wednesday) at 8 a.m. and be extended through Friday, according to the Harford County Board of Elections web site. Initially early voting was to have ended at the close of operation Thursday.
Registered voters from anywhere in Harford County can cast ballots from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. (hours have been extended) at the McFaul Center, near the Bel Air Motor Vehicle Administration building off Route 24, today, Thursday and Friday. Extra parking is available at the MVA lot.
That extra parking was needed over the weekend.
On Saturday, 3,101 registered voters went to the McFaul Activity Center to make their choices for president, House of Representatives and U.S. senator and to vote on several state and countywide ballot issues.
As of 5 p.m. Sunday, 1,848 Harford County residents had cast their votes, and the final Sunday tally was expected to hit the 2,000 mark by closing time at 6 p.m.
Lining up early Saturday
When the polls opened at 10 a.m. Saturday there was already a line circling the McFaul Center parking lot. Many guessed there were at least 300 people, young and old, waiting around 10:30 a.m.
Edgewood couple Jonathan and Carolyn Mance were about 15 minutes away from entering the building and said they had already been in line for 20 minutes.
"We knew there was going to be a line," Carolyn Mance said. "Early voting has been crowded all over the country," added her husband.
The Mances said they believe Election Day, Nov. 6, will be even more crowded, so they wanted to get voting out of the way.
"They should extend early voting even more," Jonathan Mance said. "Other states get more time." More early voting locations in the county, he added, would also be more convenient.
Dave and Nancy Barnhart, of Churchville, had also been waiting a bit to vote.
"We were going to be away on election day," Dave Barnhart said about coming out for early voting, "but now we wanted to prepare because of the hurricane." Nancy Barnhart added that they have come out for early voting during several elections since it began in 2010.
She agreed with her husband that there weren't enough voting locations in the county.
"Aberdeen High School wouldn't be bad," her husband suggested. "There's a lot of people at that end of the county, or Fallston High School."
Interest in ballot questions
Both Barnharts are passionate about Question 6, regarding same sex marriage.
"I believe marriage should be between a man and a woman," Dave Barnhart said.
"And," he added, "I don't want casinos," referring to statewide Question 7.
Bel Air residents Lynne and Mearl Howell both wanted to "get it over with" and decided to come out the first day of early voting.
Lynne Howell said she likes "the option of what days you want to come in" and it doesn't have to be on Election Day. "We went out for breakfast, it's a Saturday and it's nice weather."
Neither was expecting the massive crowd that came out that morning. At that point, they had been waiting for 30 minutes.
But, Mearl Howell observed, "What's 30 minutes to express our vote? I served 22 years for our nation for our right to do this." Howell served in the U.S. Army and National Guard and is retired.
'Lot at stake'
Lynne Howell didn't want to get into the specific issues on the ballot or the candidates, but said, "I think we need a change."
Harry Poynter, of Edgewood, also feels the country is going in the wrong direction.
"I don't like the way the economy is going now," he said. "I don't like the gas prices and I don't like the solar or wind stuff they're pushing down our throat."
Poynter voted Saturday because he's getting his tonsils out Tuesday. Otherwise, he said, he would most likely have voted on Nov. 6.
Like the others, he didn't expect the kind of turnout he encountered.
Asked why he thought people were coming out in droves, Poynter replied: "There's a lot at stake for the country."