Long lines were found at polling places throughout Harford County Tuesday, as many residents said they had become energized by the presidential race and the opportunity to have their say on several controversial state ballot questions.
Elections officials at many precincts said they were astounded at the turnout, which many veterans of past elections said was as large as they’d ever seen.
By 7 p.m., some polling places around the county still had lines of people waiting to vote with an hour remaining until the polls closed.
County elections officials said they were not concerned they might have to stay open longer than necessary to accommodate those still at line, which would in turn could delay tabulating the results.
At several polling places around Bel Air, there were no lines as the polls closed at 8 p.m.
Immediately after 8, the county elections board's website posted the tally of more than 16,500 early votes, with Republican Mitt Romney receiving 8,364 votes, or 51 percent, to 7,710 votes for President Barack Obama, or 47 percent.
Among the more controversial state ballot questions, early voters in the county opposed Question 6, same sex marriage, by 54 percent to 44 percent, and Question 7 gambling expansion, by 59 to 41 percent.
“At this point at this election, there’s a lot of voters, and the turnout’s been great, and we don’t see that as unusual,” Kevin Keene, the county elections director, said around 7 p.m.
“It’s a big election, with the presidential election and all the ssues on the ballot,” Keene said. “Obviously [long lines] will delay things, and when the last vote is finished, we’ll start breaking down things.”
“We want to get them (results) back as much as everybody wants them back,” he added. “It’s kind of a competition, we want to get them back first.”
“We’re not getting a lot of phone calls or complaints about the lines or process, or anything of that nature,” Keene said. “I know the entire state is going through the same phenomenon.
Keene wasn’t anticipating any problems in getting the polls closed at a reasonable time and getting vote tallies back to the elections board’s headquarters in Forest Hill.
“It’s been pretty steady throughout the day, obviously this a busy time just like the morning.”
Regardless, he noted, “We don’t have additional people or machines to expedite the process.”
“There’s a lot of passion on the ballot this time, it’s a big electionthis time, it’s what we like to see,” Keene said. He also said they were expecting a final turnout of at least an 80 percent among the county’s 169,000 registered voters.
For many Harford voters, there were many important choices Tuesday, not just picking the next leader of their country.
Gretchen Hopley of Bel Air brought her daughter, Tennyson, with her to vote at Prospect Mill Elementary School around lunchtime Tuesday.
A regular voter, Hopley said "I want her to know whe has a say in the world, in how this world is run."
"And I want her to see my vote," Hopley said.
This election is particularly important for her family, Hopley said.