Early voters surge at Howard County Senior Center

By the time early voting polls had been open a mere three hours, more than 700 people had cast their ballots at the Ellicott City Senior Center Saturday.

In the first hour, an elections official said, the center had more voters than it did for the entire primary early voting season in April.

Early voting polls in Maryland opened at 10 a.m. Saturday, and were be open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily until Thursday at the Ellicott City Senior Center, the Florence Bain Senior Center in Columbia and Ridgeley's Run Community Center in Jessup.

However, early voting was canceled statewide Monday because of the looming threat of Hurricane Sandy.

As of 1 p.m. Saturday, 712 people had voted in Ellicott City, and the line was wrapped around the building as residents waited more than an hour to cast their ballots.

"Judging from this morning, this year's early voting turnout is going to be a lot higher," said Guy Mickley, director of the Howard County Board of Elections. "We're on a pace to shatter (2010)," the last presidential election, and the first time Howard County offered early voting.

Mickley attributed the high turnout to three factors: voter outreach, the threat of Hurricane Sandy and the fact that this year is a presidential election.

Kathleen Schmidt, 66, of Elkridge, said several factors brought her to the early voting polls. For one, she said, the threat of Hurricane Sandy was a concern, and she worried the lines would be even longer on Nov. 6.

"I don't want, for any reason, not to cast my vote," Schmidt said. "This is a close (presidential) election, and I'm invested in the outcome. I spent much of my life working with labor unions, so I support candidates who support working men and women."

John Szabo, of Ellicott City, said early voting was a "great opportunity to vote and make sure it's done." Like Schmidt, he was worried about the hurricane and even longer lines on Election Day.

Szabo's wife, Teddi Fine, said she was voting because, in such a close race, "there's too much at stake." Wearing a pin emblazoned with Barack Obama and the phrase "I've got his back," Fine said she saw "incredible potential" in the ballot questions, like same-sex marriage.

"We've given women rights, we've given African-American rights, and it's the LGBT community's time," she said.

Hurricane Sandy also drove Patsy Kennan and her husband Kurt Schwarz to the early voting polls.

"We want to make sure we get our chance to vote, ahead of the possible storm," Kennan said. "We like early voting, and since we're pretty much decided, there's no need to wait."


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