By Blair Ames, email@example.com
7:41 AM EST, November 6, 2012
The number of early voters in Howard County was the highest ever recorded in the county, but more than 80 percent of registered voters still have the option of heading to the polls Tuesday.
Slightly more than 16 percent of Howard County registered voters, or 30,463, voted during last week’s early voting sessions.
Guy Mickley, director of the Howard County Board of Elections, said the turnout is the highest recorded in Howard County by far.
Only 14,901 voters took advantage of early voting during the 2010 gubernatorial general election.
Mickley attributed the increase to the presidential election and the fact that it was only the second time voters have had the option of voting early in Maryland.
“It’s still catching on,” he said.
In addition to the presidential race, voters Tuesday will have a number of local issues they will be deciding.
The county school board race will be the most closely watched local decision, with the county executive, statehouse, and County Council election still two years away.
There are six candidates vying for three open spots on the board and there will be at least one new face on the board, since incumbent Allen Dyer lost his bid for re-election in April’s primary.
Incumbents Janet Siddiqui and Ellen Giles are trying to retain their spot on the board, while David Gertler, Ann De Lacy, Jackie Scott and Bob Ballinger are looking to serve for the first time.
The Howard County Education Association has endorsed De Lacy, Gertler and Scott for the board.
Also specific to Howard County on ballots tomorrow will be five amendments to the county charter, most notably a proposed change to the number of signatures required for referendum.
Currently, a petition must have five percent of the county’s registered voters, with at least 1,500 and a maximum of 5,000. The proposed change would require that petitioners obtain at least five percent of the Howard County votes cast during the gubernatorial election, with no minimum or maximum.
The change would ensure that the percentage of required signatures for referendum will always be reflective of the county’s population. But it could make it more difficult to get a referendum on the ballot, because the number of signatures would most likely increase over time.
Voters also will see seven statewide ballot questions Tuesday, including two much-debated questions, one addressing same-sex marriage and another expanding gambling.
A vote for Question 6 would allow same-sex couples to marry in Maryland beginning Jan.1.
A vote for Question 7 would allow casinos to add table games and the state to add another casino site, most likely in Prince George’s County.
Question 4 asks voters whether they approve of undocumented immigrants, who have graduated from a Maryland high school, becoming eligible for in-state tuition rates at state community colleges. Question 5 asks voters to approve the new congressional districting plan, which was already challenged in federal court, but upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in June.
Dependent upon where they live, voters have one congressional race they will be deciding.
Voters in District 2, along the eastern edge of the county, will choose between Democratic incumbent Dutch Ruppersberger and Republican challenger Nancy Jacobs. Libertarian candidate Leo Dymowski is also on the ballot in the district.
Voters in District 3, which includes a portion of Columbia and some of the southern end of the county, have the option of Democratic incumbent John Sarbanes or Republican challenger Eric Knowles. Libertarian candidate Paul Drgos Jr. is also running in the district.
The seventh district in Maryland encompasses all of western Howard County and voters there will be choosing between Democratic incumbent Elijah Cummings and Republican challenger Frank Mirabile. Ronald Owens-Bey is the Libertarian candidate in the district.
Finally, Howard County voters will be casting a ballot for the Senate seat currently held by Democrat Ben Cardin. Cardin, a U.S. Senator since 2007, is challenged this year by Republican Daniel Bongino and Independent Rob Sobhani.
Dean Ahmad is the Libertarian candidate for Senate.
Polls are open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.