Turnout started slow but picked up in the afternoon in Howard County as polls opened Thursday for early voting.
Though Howard Board of Elections Director Guy Mickley said in the morning that turnout at Columbia's Bain Center, one of three early voting locations in the county, was much lower than usual, by 3 p.m. he reported that turnout numbers were about twice as high as they had been over the same period during early voting in June's primary election.
As they left the polls at the Miller library in Ellicott City, Sharon and Bill Koenig said they intentionally showed up to the vote in the afternoon.
"We're retired, so we figured it would be easier to pick an off-peak time. In the middle of the afternoon, people are still at work," Bill Koenig said.
Depite the afternoon spike in voting, Mickley still projected turnout for the county, including early voting, would be 50 to 55 percent. Normally, he said, turnout was between 60 and 65 percent, and in the 2012 general election 81 percent of registered Howard voters cast a vote.
In October, more Howard County voters dropped from the rolls -- which happens when a registered voter moves or dies -- than signed up.
"I've never seen that before," Mickley said. Usually, he noted, the board sees a surge of new registrations in the last three weeks before an election.
As he cast his vote at the Bain Center Thursday, County Executive Ken Ulman, who is running for lieutenant governor on Democratic candidate Anthony Brown's ticket, said it was critical to both candidates in the gubernatorial race that supporters show up to vote.
"Whoever folks are voting for, we want to make sure people know there are short lines or no lines" at early voting centers, he said.
"We feel strong in any circumstance, but there's no question that stronger turnout helps us," Ulman said of his and Brown's campaign. "We know our voters are out there."
Democratic county executive candidate Courtney Watson, who met Ulman at the polls, was even more blunt.
"The campaign that gets their voters turned out is going to win," she said.
Tony Cuticchia, of Ellicott City, said he came out to the polls because "we've got to bust this Democratic stronghold."
He called himself a "disgusted voter" who felt "nothing changes but the time.
"People are frustrated," he said.
Meanwhile, Jeff Arney and Jeanie Landolt said they cast their vote early because they're happy with the way the county is run.
"We're really passionate about keeping Howard County progressive," Arney said. "We just really wanted to make a statement by coming out today."
This year, Howard County voters will pick a new executive and will choose among fresh faces for several State House seats, as veteran local politicians, including state Sen. Jim Robey, Del. Liz Bobo, Del. Steve DeBoy and Del. Jimmy Malone retire.
Early voting centers will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Oct. 23 and every day for the next week, through Oct. 30. Early voting centers are open throughout the weekend.
In Howard, residents can vote at one of three locations during the early voting period: Columbia's Florence Bain Senior Center, the Miller Branch library in Ellicott City and Ridgely's Run Community Center in Jessup.