Light turnout in Laurel continues during early voting

In the state-wide gubernatorial race, Anthony Brown and running mate Ken Ulman, considered frontrunners, face competition from four other Democratic duos, but many candidates hoping to represent Prince George’s County are running unopposed.

Brown’s major competition comes from Attorney General Doug Gansler, who is leaving his position up for grabs in a three-way struggle between Democrats Aisha Braveboy, Jon Cardin and Brian Frosh. Jeffrey Pritzker is the only Republican to run for the seat.

Democratic Prince George’s Sheriff Melvin High also faces a tough battle against multiple candidates, including Sylvester Jones, Everett Sesker and Louis Wood Jr.; while Gregory Prakas is the unopposed Republican candidate.

Aside from those races, the majority of the other county candidates on the ballot are uncontested, including County Executive Rushern Baker III and District 1 County Councilwoman Mary Lehman.

In addition, Laurel’s District 21 Democratic state Sen. Jim Rosapepe is without competition in the primary, as are all of the Democratic District 21 incumbent candidates: Ben Barnes, Barbara Frush and Joseline Peña-Melnyk.

With so few contested races, early voting got off to a slow start when it began June 12. Despite the addition of three new locations in Prince George’s County this year, including the Laurel-Beltsville Senior Activity Center, Suitland Community Park School Center and Baden Community Center, voter turnout was relatively small.

Of the nearly 5.9 million people that live in Maryland, almost 3.4 million are eligible active voters. About 510,000 of them live in Prince George’s County.

After five days of early voting, only 2 percent of eligible county residents had voted, nearly matching the 2.1 percent of people who had voted statewide, according to the Maryland Board of Elections.

“I’ve been doing this since before they had the electronic polls,” said Patricia Allen, who has been a judge for 16 years. “This is my first time I’ve been an early voting judge, but in my experience with the regular polls, the primaries are sparse.”

Part of the low turnout is likely due to the fact that so many of the candidates are running unopposed.

“This year there’s not as much interest in voting,” said Republican Chief Judge Susan Habig, who worked at the polls at the Laurel-Beltsville Senior Activity Center.

Adding a location in Laurel was beneficial for many voters, like Cindy Rankin. She said she votes early whenever possible because of her frequent travel schedule. This new location is so close to her house, “I can even walk if I wanted to,” she said.

For Laurel residents Jim Behenna and his wife, Pat, voting was much easier than in recent years.

Last time they voted, “there was a 20-minute drive to Bowie, for starters,” said Jim Behenna. “A bit more of a wait as well.”

“We weren’t quite sure what to expect,” he added, but the experience was “outstanding.”

J. D. Perkins and Don Dalphonse live only a few miles away from the Laurel-Beltsville Senior Activity Center, and they agree that it’s much more convenient.

June 19 is the last day for early voting and the polls are open until 8 p.m. Election day for the gubernatorial primaries is Tuesday, June 24. Any registered voter in Maryland can request to vote by absentee ballot. The deadline to request an absentee ballot for online delivery is June 20.

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