State and local candidates are barreling toward the primary elections in less than two weeks, but not everyone is aware – or cares – that there's an opportunity to vote on the horizon.
Pollsters and local election officials are predicting low voter turnout rates on June 24.
Experts say the date combines an earlier-than-usual primary election with historical apathy toward primaries in non-presidential election years.
Turnout projections predict between 15 and 27 percent of registered voters will head to the polls, depending on who you ask.
On the higher end of the spectrum, Howard County Board of Elections Director Guy Mickley said he anticipates a turnout of 24 to 27 percent of registered voters in the primary, although those numbers include projected early voting participants. Mickley estimates between 5 and 8 percent of registered voters will take advantage of the early voting option, which begins June 12.
Prince George's County Board of Elections representatives did not respond to requests for comment.
There are few contested races in Laurel's Prince George's County districts for both council and state seats.
According to data from the Maryland Board of Elections, Howard County voter turnout in the last gubernatorial primary, held Sept. 14, 2010, was 22.33 percent, falling below the statewide average turnout of 25.35 percent.
Howard County Republicans voted in the 2010 primary in slightly higher numbers than Democrats, with 27.87 percent turnout rate, compared with the Democrats' 26.59 percent.
In Prince George's County, the primary turnout rate was even lower, at 21.4 percent. More Prince George's Democrats than Republicans voted in the primary, with turnout rates of 24.13 percent and 17.41 percent, respectively.
In the 2012 presidential primary, the turnout rate for Howard was even lower, with only about 15.7 percent of voters showing up to the polls on election day. Prince George's County also saw lower numbers, with just 12.69 percent of those registered voting.
Local pollster and political blogger Jason Booms said he hadn't done any official projections of his own related to voter turnout, although he predicted that overall primary turnout would be "respectable," with "higher turnout in districts that are experiencing very competitive primaries."
Booms pointed to Howard County Executive Ken Ulman's presence on the ballot as running mate to gubernatorial candidate Anthony Brown, the current lieutenant governor, as well as "higher-than-usual interest in the Board of Education campaigns" in Howard County as further factors that might drive people to the voting booth.
However, some think the earlier voting date could provide a counterweight to those potential boosts.
"I think people are not thinking about voting in June," Mickley said. With school ending before the election and the official start of summer June 21, "they're thinking about taking a vacation," he said.
Mickley said the Howard County Board of Elections had only received a little more than 600 absentee ballots so far, a third of the 1,800 or so they typically receive before a primary election.
With the earlier election date in mind, Herb Sweren, President and CEO of bipartisan election software and strategy service CampaignOn, offered a more conservative turnout estimate.
Sweren predicted that the percentage of registered voters who turn up to the polls on primary day will be between 15 and 20 percent.
"In certain jurisdictions, I think there's a lot of worry" about the potential for low turnout, he said.
Loretta Shields, the chairwoman of Howard County's Republican Central Committee, was more blunt.