As early voting launches today across Maryland for the first time this year, local elected officials took to the voting booth themselves this morning to urge fellow citizens to take advantage of the extended voting hours.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings voted at Edmondson-Westside High School Friday morning and urged citizens to vote yes on several bond measures that would allow the city to borrow $100 million in the next three years to maintain city buildings, renovate some local schools and revitalize some neighborhoods.
As a steady stream of voters walked into the high school Friday morning, Cummings said that while early voting makes it more convenient for citizens to cast their ballots, if turnout is low for early voting, it may be difficult to justify it for later elections.
Statewide, the Department of Legislative Services, the non-partisan research arm of the General Assembly, has estimated early voting will cost between $2.5 million to $3.2 million. Only about 2.5 percent of Marylanders eligible to vote early in the primary elections did so.
"Early voting costs a lot of money," Cummings said. "We've got to make sure that we justify those expenditures."
Five voting centers in the city and 46 statewide, a list of which can be found on the State Board of Elections website, will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. until Thursday. Polling places will be closed only on Sunday.
According to the Board of Elections, any person in line at 8 p.m. will be allowed to vote.
Gov. Martin O'Malley and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown are set to cast their ballots at their respective polling places, in Baltimore and Landover, at 2 p.m. today.
Republican gubernatorial challengers Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Mary Kane will start on a nine-county early voting tour Saturday, hitting polling places that include Allegany, Frederick, Prince George's and Baltimore-area counties.