The Bain Center in Columbia, one of three early voting precincts to open in Howard County this weekend, was flooded with early voters as residents looked to stay ahead of Hurricane Sandy.
"Judging from this morning, this year's early voting turnout is going to be a lot higher," said Guy Mickley, Director of Howard County Board of Elections. "We're on a pace to shatter the (2010) record."
Mickley attributes the high turnout to three factors: voter outreach, the threat of Hurricane Sandy, and this year's presidential election.
Mickley said the board of elections is encouraging early voting, which was first implemented in Maryland in the 2010 elections.
"It's normally faster and quicker, and it is always more convenient to people's schedules," Mickley said.
Columbia resident Kim James, 45, said she had considered doing early voting later in the week before the news of Hurricane Sandy, but the impending storm persuaded her to come Saturday.
"I wanted to make sure I came and voted, just in case there was a power outage," said James, who arrived at the Bain Center at 10:55 a.m. and wasn't finished voting until nearly 12:45 p.m. "I wish I got here earlier, but I didn't think it would be like this."
Columbia resident Cynthia Hood, 53, said the storm absolutely affected her decision to vote early.
"I kind of expected the crowd," Hood said. "But I still thought it would be faster and more convenient than election day."
Hood, who said the two most contentious issues for her were Question 6 on same-sex marriage and Question 7 on expanded gambling, also spoke about the importance of voting.
"People may not think it matters, but it's how we affect change," Hood said.
Charles Thomas, 76, of Columbia, said he was surprised to see a line wrapped around the Bain Center when he arrived at 10:30 a.m.
"I though it would be pretty quick until I got here," he said. "I can understand with the weather situation why people are coming out."
Early voting was to be held from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily through Thursday, Nov. 1, but was canceled statewide on Monday because of the threat of Hurricane Sandy.
Mickley said the main difference between early voting and traditional voting is any registered voter in Howard County can visit any of the three precincts.
In addition to the Bain Center, early voters can cast their ballot at the Ellicott City Senior Center, located at 9401 Frederick Road, and the Ridgely's Run Community Center, located at 8400 Mission Road in Jessup.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun