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Just over 33,000 Marylanders had taken advantage of the state's new early voting rules in the first three days of early voting, according to data on the Maryland Board of Elections website.

That means roughly one percent of the state's 3.1 million registered voters had gone to the polls from Friday to Monday. Early polling places will be open two more days. Primary elections don't usually draw large numbers of voters – four years ago 29 percent of registered Maryland voters participated. (See photo below of an early voting center at Northpoint Library courtesy of Sun reporter Julie Bykowicz.)

Statewide, the two busiest counties so far are Prince George's with 5,800 voting and Baltimore County where 5,780 voted. Overall larger percentages of eligible Democrats are voting early than Republicans – but not by much -- 1.21 percent of Dems have voted verses one percent of GOP voters. These figures do not in

Few vote early so far

clude absentee ballots.

GOP leaning Kent and Garrett counties stood out as the two areas with the largest percentage of registered voters taking advantage of the new rules. That's a bit surprising given Republicans in the General Assembly vehemently opposed the early voting program when it was first suggested in 2005.

In Baltimore city's waterfront 46th district, Senate challenger Bill Ferguson has not yet marshaled his promised troops to take on Sen. George Della. The young candidate touted a sophisticated early voting plan to beat the incumbent, however as of Monday a mere 428 had cast ballots.

(UPDATE: Ferguson says via text message that turnout is "slightly lower than expected" but says his supporters are going to the polls by a four to one margin. There is no real way of verifying this that I can think of.)

Instead, most of the early voting in Baltimore is occurring in Northeast's 43rd District, where 963 (or 1.7 percent) have voted in the contest between incumbent Sen. Joan Carter Conway and challenger Hector Torres.

Torres, a former Baltimore City Fire Department spokesman, hasn't raised much money but is trying to ride the year's anti- politician theme by accusing Conway of being bought by Annapolis special interests. The district had high turnout four years ago; with 34.43 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in that district. That percentage beat the state average and made the 43rd the second most vote happy district in the city.

Oddly, Northwest Baltimore's 41st legislative district, where there are no contested races for the General Assembly, so far has the second highest voter turnout with 923 taking part. Del. Sandy Rosenberg hypothesized that the top of the ticket State's Attorney match-up between incumbent Patricia Jessamy and challenger Gregg Bernstein could be driving the higher turnout there. Also, he noted, two of the city's five early voting centers are located in the district.

Another reason could be that residents there just really like to vote – in 2006 the district had the highest participation figures in the city.

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