Early voting begins in Maryland with busy polls around the region

Early voting runs from Thursday, Oct. 27 to Thursday, Nov. 3 at select polling locations around Maryland.

Marylanders are getting their first opportunity to cast ballots in early voting in the hotly contested presidential election between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump today.

Turnout across the state has been high. About 95,000 people had voted across the state by 5 p.m. On the first day of early voting in 2012, 78,000 people cast ballots.

In Baltimore, lines at some early voting centers took more than an hour to navigate. In Carroll and Howard counties, more than 50 voters were lined up outside some early voting centers before polls opened at 8 a.m. At one polling place in Harford County, more than 200 people had voted by 9 a.m.

Linda H. Lamone, state election administrator, said she had not been made aware of any problems.

Baltimore election director Armstead B.C. Jones Sr. also said he had no problems to report, although most city voters had to wait in long lines.

“It’s going pretty smooth,” Jones said. “People seem to be very happy even though they’re in line.”

Delores Moore was one of the more than 1,000 people who voted at early voting center in Northeast Baltimore at the League for People with Disabilities.

“I just want to get it over with,” said Moore, 81, of Waverly. “I wanted to beat the crowd, but the crowd beat me.”

When she encountered dozens and dozens waiting in line at the polling place, Shelley Glenn said, “My goodness. This is awesome, though.”

Glenn, 65, and her husband, Dwight, 69, of Ednor Gardens said they vote every election and consider it their civic duty. They had about an hour and a half to wait at the League for People with Disabilities as they made their way to the back of the line that snaked through the building.

“It’s good,” Dwight Glenn said of the line. “It shows people are concerned.”

More than 430,500 Marylanders took advantage of early voting in 2012, the first presidential election in which it was offered. This general election contest is expected to draw more.

"The pattern that we've seen is an increase in early voting for every election cycle," said Nikki Baines Charlson, deputy administrator at the Maryland State Board of Elections.

Early voters in the 2012 contest between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney accounted for nearly 16 percent of the 2.7 million ballots cast. This year, that proportion is expected to grow.

"I think you're going to see very, very high turnout for early voting," said Todd Eberly, a political scientist at St. Mary's College of Maryland. "I want to vote just because I want to put this election in my rearview mirror as quickly as possible."

Early voting runs from today through Thursday, Nov. 3, at polling locations around the state. The polls are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

For the first time, the state this year is allowing same-day voter registration during early voting. To register to vote, Marylanders must bring a document that proves that they live in the state.

Same-day registration is not available on Election Day, Nov. 8.

Nearly 2,000 people registered to vote during early voting in April. Nearly 1,500 registered as Democrats.

Officials are opening six early-voting locations in Baltimore, nine in Baltimore County, five in Anne Arundel County, four in Harford County, three in Howard County and one in Carroll County.

More than 257,000 Marylanders voted early in the April primary — a state record for a primary election.

About 40,000 people voted early in each of the large counties of Baltimore, Montgomery and Prince George's. The highest early-voting turnout was in Talbot County on the Eastern Shore, where 14 percent of eligible voters chose to cast ballots before Election Day.

Armstead B.C. Jones Sr., Baltimore's elections director, said he doesn't see widespread enthusiasm for any candidate in the city but expects early voters to come out in good numbers.

"The first few days we're going to see a rush," Jones said. "You always have those diehard folks that get out there. We're ready for them."

The city suffered several problems during the primary election — including election judges who didn't show up for work — but Jones said officials were ready for this week. He said he has enough staff in place.

"We're not recruiting any more judges," he said.

The high turnout of the April primary was fueled in part by the competitive nature of several races: Clinton faced opponent Bernie Sanders, and Trump faced Ted Cruz and John Kasich. There were also high-money battles in the House and Senate, for Baltimore mayor and many City Council seats.

Beyond the presidential election, the ballot features the battle between Democrat Chris Van Hollen, Republican Kathy Szeliga and Green Party nominee Margaret Flowers for a rare open Senate seat, and contests for each of Maryland's eight House seats.

The Baltimore mayoral election pits Democrat Catherine E. Pugh, Republican Alan Walden, and Green Party candidate Joshua Harris. Former Mayor Sheila Dixon, a Democrat, is waging a write-in campaign.

While officials are bracing for strong early voting, Eberly said he's not so sure turnout through Election Day will be up.

"We have the two least popular [presidential] nominees ever in the modern era," Eberly said. "That typically means lower turnout. On the flip side, we have more people paying attention to the race than normal. That usually leads to higher turnout."

In Maryland, there are 2.1 million registered Democrats, 1 million Republicans, and 675,000 unaffiliated voters. There also are about 19,000 registered Libertarians, 9,000 Greens and 32,000 people registered with other third parties.

lbroadwater@baltsun.com

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Baltimore Sun Media Group reporters David Anderson and Andrew Michaels contributed to this article.

Early voting

•Early voting takes place from today through Nov. 3. Polls are open from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.

•There are 67 early-voting locations in Maryland, including six in Baltimore, nine in Baltimore County, five in Anne Arundel County, four in Harford County, three in Howard County and one in Carroll County. To find your nearest early-voting location, visit the state board of elections website.

•Same-day voter registration is allowed during early voting. To register, a voter must bring a document that proves he or she lives in the state. This document can be a driver's license, ID card, paycheck, bank statement, utility bill or other government document.

•Same-day registration will not be available on Election Day, Nov. 8.

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