With a highly charged presidential election and several closely fought questions on the ballot, nearly twice as many Marylanders voted early this year than in 2010. And with long lines and waits at several early voting centers, lawmakers are talking about opening more in 2014.
At the close of the polls Friday night, 430,573 Marylanders – 11.65 percent of eligible voters – had cast ballots through five days of early voting. That was nearly double the six-day standard of 219,601 set in the gubernatorial election of 2010, the state’s first experience with early voting.
Del. Sandy Rosenberg, a Baltimore Democrat, says he will file legislation to open more centers and extend early voting through the Sunday before Election Day.
State Sen. James Rosapepe, a College Park Democrat, plans a bill that would allow elections officials to open as many centers as needed to keep wait times down to 15 minutes or less.
“Democracy delayed is democracy denied,” Rosapepe said in a statement. “I've heard repeated complaints from my constituents about the long lines and waiting times of over two hours to vote at the small number of early voting locations available across the state.”
The state opened 46 early voting centers, including at least one in every county.
“Voters, Democrats as well as Republicans and Independents, want the opportunity to exercise their right to vote without unjustified delays,” Rosapepe said. “Clearly some of the delays were caused by the hurricane, but not all of them.”
Early voting had been scheduled to run from Saturday through Thursday. As Hurricane Sandy approached, Gov. Martin O’Malley ordered voting centers to close on Monday and Tuesday. But he later added another voting day on Friday, and extended hours at the polls.
Elections officials say adding more days would not be possible because poll workers need time to transition to the regular Election Day vote next Tuesday.
The last day of early voting was also the busiest: 107,385 voters cast their ballots on Friday.
Turnout was steady throughout the early vote. The weakest day – 55,947 on Sunday, with the storm bearing down on the Eastern Seaboard – was stronger than the strongest day in 2010.
Marylanders are casting ballots not only for president but also on same-sex marriage, in-state tuition breaks for students brought to the United States illegally as children, an expansion of casino gambling, a new congressional map and other issues.
Elections officials now are preparing for Election Day, when the bulk of voters are expected to cast their ballots.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun