Carroll County Times

Election Day 2012: Carroll at the polls

Voters come and go from West Middle School in Westminster Tuesday.

With a hotly contested presidential race nationwide and four controversial referendum questions, voter turnout is expected to be high across the state, including Carroll County. Times reporters Carrie Knauer, Rachel Roubein and Kelcie Pegher, will spend Election Day out at the polls, talking to voters about the issues that are important to them. Check back frequently for updates throughout the day.

Sandymount Elementary School, 8:45 p.m., Alisha George

A couple people hurried in to the elementary schools right before polls closed at 8 p.m.

Right before polls closed, there was about 62 percent voter turnout. Thomas Jones, of Finksburg, said he voted for Gov. Mitt Romney.

"I think we need a different direction than we've been going the last four years," he said.

Even though it's against his religious beliefs, he voted for question 6 to approve same sex marriage because he believes it is a right that people should have.

Jones decided to vote for question 7 gambling expansion, but doesn't believe the money is going to go to schools. But he thinks if money is not gained through gambling, the government will raise revenue in another way.

Andrew Wahl, of Finksburg, also voted for question 6 because he believes it is an issue of fairness.

"I don't think you should keep people from being happy," he said.

Wahl is an accountant and keeps up with politics mostly through the Wall Street Journal. That's why he voted for Gov. Mitt Romney, he said.

This is only the second election he could participate in, but he makes sure to vote whenever he can.

"It's important to have your voice heard," he said. "I feel like some people take that for granted."

Westminster Middle School, 8 p.m., Kelcie Pegher

When polls close at 8 p.m., and the remaining voters make it through the lines, the election judges pop the memory cards from the computers and the supplies go into a binder.

A Republican and Democratic judge take the binder and ride together in the same car, Rebecca Fisher, an election chief judge said.

"It's kind of a ritual, but it's a good ritual. It keeps everything fair and under observation," Fisher said.

As of 7 p.m., Westminster Middle School had 55 percent of its precinct vote, said Fisher. That amounts to about 3,025 voters throughout the day. The busiest part of their day was the morning, Fisher said, with a half hour wait from 9:30 until noon.

"We had a number of first time voters and they weren't young. They were people of all ages who were voting for the first time," Fisher said.

Voters who rushed to the polls after work included Raul Eusantos, who based his vote on the economy and immigration. He likes Mitt Romney's plan for legal immigration, and voted against Question 4, which would allow children who were brought to the U.S. illegally to pay in-state tuition, with several stipulations.

"I feel this country was based on people coming here and coming here legally and doing it the right way," Eusantos said. "That's what my parents did, that's what your parents did."

Eusantos is in support of the recently introduced English-only ordinance in Carroll County. The number of Carroll County residents that speak English less than "very well" is 2,599, or 1.6 percent of the total 157,646 people in Carroll, according to the 2010 Census.

Like Eusantos, the economy is the reason Amy and Rob Baird cast their ballot for Romney.

"We feel like he has a better action plan on how to get back in shape," Amy Baird said.

Rob Baird said as a small business owner, he feels hampered by regulations. Five or six years ago, he would have jobs lined up for more than a year, and now he just has a few months. Rob Baird said for him, the choice was a lesser of two evils, but Romney's business sense decided his vote.

Rob Baird works in manufacturing and is hoping to bring manufacturing back locally. Since January 2010, 479,000 manufacturing jobs have been added, largely due to the auto industry bailout.

While Romney may have jobs overseas, at least he has business experience, Rob Baird said.

Carroll Lutheran Village, 7:43 p.m., Christian Alexandersen

Long before people began voting at Carroll Lutheran Village in Westminster on Tuesday, Janet Kelly and Mark Jones were busying setting up the voting machines and preparing for the election. Kelly and Jones are the chief election judges at the Carroll Lutheran polling place. They are responsible for everything that goes on during the election at their polling place.

Before Carroll County voters stopped by to cast their ballots, Kelly and Jones were busy helping other volunteers set up the electronic voting machines. By the time the election is finished and the machines are locked up, Kelly, Jones and the other election volunteers will have worked 15 hours.

"It's fun meeting new folks and spending the day talking to people, Jones said.

"I love being part of the process," Kelly said.

It was amazing to see the lengths people would go in order to vote, she said. One woman was rolled to the polling place in her hospital bed, while others voted in their wheelchairs and with the assistance of walkers, Kelly said. On the flip side of that, Jones said there were also young adults that came in that were voting for the first time.

Jones and Kelly said they needed another 10 voters in order to reach 75 percent voter turnout in their precinct. The presidential election and referendum questions were the main reasons why so many people came out to vote, they said.

North Carroll High School, 7:30 p.m., Alisha George

Husband and wife and Hampstead residents Bill and Deb Painter, a Republican and Democrat, respectively, don't usually discuss politics with each other.

The two said they respect each other's opinions and don't always vote down party lines. After making an exception and talking about their votes, they found out they both voted for Gov. Mitt Romney this Election Day, citing the economy as the main reason.

"I'm ready for a change," Deb said.

They both voted for question 6 to approve same sex marriage but Deb voted for question 7 gambling expansion and Bill voted against it.

"We have enough gambling in Maryland," Bill said, while Deb argued, "But it creates jobs."

John Painter, of Hampstead, also voted for Gov. Mitt Romney. He also cited the economy as a main reason.

He was particularly passionate about voting against question 7. He believes Maryland is too late to the game when it comes to table games.

"I don't want any more gambling in this state," he said.

Jennifer Fritzges, of Hampstead, decided to vote for Gov. Mitt Romney because she's not happy with the way things are.

"I believe the country is not going in the right direction," she said.

She decided to vote for question 7 gambling expansion because the money goes toward schools. She votes every election and was happy to see the long line to vote at North Carroll.

"I'm just glad to see such a good turnout, regardless of who wins," she said.

Carroll County Career and Technology Center, 6:35 p.m., Kelcie Pegher

Both Republicans and Democrats have mixed opinions about the expansion of gambling, otherwise known as Question 7, on the election ballot this year.

After work, the parking lot at the Carroll County Career and Technology Center filled as voters swept in and out of the center, casting their votes quickly. A small line formed around 5:30 p.m.

The non-partisan divide for gambling expansion is between those who believe the money will go toward education and create jobs and those who disapprove of gambling.

"Even if it doesn't all go to education, it's still money that's coming into Maryland and not going to Delaware or Virginia," said Kim Harris, a voter at the Tech Center, who also noted she voted for Mitt Romney.

Randy Weber, who also voted for Romney, said in every state he's lived in, gambling hasn't been the solution.

"People think it's going to be a quick result to solving all their problems fiscally. It is not. It never is," Weber said.

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, a Democrat, is against Question 7, and is featured in television ads saying money would not go toward education funding. Gov. Martin O'Malley is in support of the ballot measure, saying that it would bring jobs to the area.

Tisha Louis, an Obama supporter, said if it brings more money into the state, she's for the measure.

"Let's bring people here and get some more money into our budget," Louis said.

She voted for Obama for the same reason many Obama voters cast their ballot - she felt he didn't get a fair chance.

"And I really don't like Romney," Louis said.

Jennifer Kersheskey and Brittney Jackson, a mother and daughter duo who voted together, both cast their votes for Obama. Kersheskey said she felt Obama needed more time, and she said during the debates, she thought Romney was dishonest.

"As a single parent, and I really feel like there are a lot of us out there, I don't want a President of the United States who doesn't like women and doesn't like what we've accomplished in all these years," Kersheskey said.

Kersheskey voted for the expansion of gambling, with the thought it will create more jobs and bring money to the state.

Francis Scott Key High School, 6 p.m., Christian Alexandersen

Harry Fisher, of Union Bridge, drove 90 minutes from Lancaster, Pa., where he works for a military contractor, just to make sure he was able to vote on election day.

After he finished voting at Francis Scott Key High School, Fisher said he was driving another 90 minutes back to Lancaster to continue working. Fisher said he considers it very important to vote.

Fisher said he voted for former Gov. Mitt Romney for president because he was going to bring jobs to the country. While President Barack Obama is poised to win Maryland's 10 electoral votes, Fisher said it's still important to vote for the candidate you believe in.

"I'm in a Democratic state but I've got to come out and vote regardless," Fisher said.

As a Republican, Ron Arthur, of Uniontown, said he sometimes feel like he's throwing away his vote in Maryland. Regardless of that feeling, Arthur said he's doesn't feel discouraged. Aside from the presidential election, Arthur said the referendum questions on the ballot were very important to him.

As of 5:35 p.m., Shawn Reese, chief election judge at FSK, said over 50 percent of registered voters for the FSK polling place had already cast their ballots.

Fairhaven Retirement Community, 5:40 p.m., Rachel Roubein

The sun has set, and the night has become quite chilly. Let jealousy ensue toward the majority of voters at Fairhaven, a Sykesville retirement community, who don't have to venture out into the chilly evening to cast a ballot.

That said, it's a fairly small precinct, with seven machines and 558 voters assigned to the location, election chief judge Brian Flickinger said.

As of 5 p.m., about two-thirds of the precinct's registered voters had already either made a pit-stop at Fairhaven or traveled from their upstairs rooms to the building's ground floor.

The morning was bustling, Flickinger said, but the afternoon slowed to a crawl. From 2 to 5 p.m., only 43 people had come by.

Maybe early voting had something to do with this lengthy lull, Flickinger wondered.

It's the first year early voting has been offered for a presidential election, according to the Maryland Board of Elections. And voters flocked to the machines.

By 9 p.m. Friday, 10,542 residents voted early in Carroll County, as reported in a Times article published Saturday.

Richard Howes (one of the about 25 percent assigned to the precinct that Flickinger estimated did not live in Fairhaven) came to the location a little after 5 p.m. An almost-rush had occurred, with several showing up at once. Which was fine, since only one person was using a machine.

Howes, a registered Democrat, has consistently voted Republican for years and is a self-proclaimed conservative. This year was no exception, voting for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

What fueled this choice?

"My grandkids; get rid of Obamacare, get some jobs, get rid of some debt," he said.

Sounds like a similar sentiment many Republicans around the county have been echoing today.

Robert Moton Elementary, 5:01 p.m., Kelcie Pegher

Both Michelle Jefferson and Dante Parlton work in similar industries but have two very different viewpoints on the economy.

Jefferson, who is self-employed in commercial construction and the chair of We the People, the local tea party movement, voted for Mitt Romney. Parlton, the owner of a landscaping business, voted for Barack Obama.

"It's all about the individual and taking care of yourself," Jefferson said, as she held signs outside of Robert Moton Elementary School.

Her car is the first car visible in the elementary school parking lot. There are signs to vote for Bongino, as well as car paint urging voters to vote no on ballot questions such as same-sex marriage and the DREAM Act.

Recebba Shields voted against same-sex marriage and Question 7, which would expand gambling and add table games. She voted for Romney because she liked his morals and principles, she said.

"I just trust Romney," Shields said.

Jefferson said in 2008, she was out of work and was able to rely on family. While some people don't have the option, living on welfare forever isn't an option either, she said.

In Carroll County, the poverty rate dropped to 4.6 percent this year, as the county climbed to the 22nd wealthiest county in America. The unemployment rate dropped to 7.9 percent in October after 43 months of remaining above 8 percent.

Parlton said his business received the small business loan, which was granted to him by the Obama administration. Parlton said he also likes how the president is changing business on Wall Street, and he has faith that the comeback General Motors has made will happen to the economy as well, he said.

"Jobs are coming back, people just have to apply for them. I blame people for being unemployed, not the president," Parlton said.

Peaks and valleys exist in life, he said.

"It's like this -- if I had a basketball team and me putting another point guard in when my point guard's just heating up," Parlton said. "I feel like the president's heating up."

Carrolltowne Elementary School, 4:10 p.m., Rachel Roubein

College -- it's expensive.

That's something Madison Deegan, a 20-year-old McDaniel College student said she knows well. It's an expense that's worth it for the psychology major. It's one she voted to make more affordable for undocumented immigrants, taking time out of her day to go to the Carrolltowne Elementary School precinct.

The Maryland DREAM Act (Question 4) has been a hotly contested issue in the state. It stands for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, and children brought to the country illegally would be granted in-state tuition at Maryland colleges under several stipulations (they must attend three years of high school, attend a two-year community college, be accepted into the school of their choosing and their parents or guardian must file an income tax return).

The registered independent voted to give President Barack Obama another four years at the Carrolltowne precinct, the largest in the county, according to election chief judge Dawn Meade. At 3:30 p.m., about 45 percent of the location's registered voters had cast a ballot (totaling nearly 3,100), Meade said.

Erich Steinnagel strolled out of the gymnasium with his 24-year-old daughter Kristin Steinnagel ("how did you get so old?" he asked).

He'd just finished putting her through college at Stevenson University, so he knows about college tuition. The two voted against Question 4, which the Maryland General Assembly passed in 2011 but garnered the necessary 59,200 signatures to be put on this year's ballot.

"I think we need to take care of the people who have been doing it right," Erich said.

Actually, Questions 4 through 7 were all no's for the pair of registered Republicans who gave their presidential vote to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Especially Question 7, which expands gambling in the state.

It harms those living around the facilities, and simple state revenue is not worth the cost of damaging its residents, he said.

"Atlantic City is a perfect example," he said.

As Erich and Kristin walked to the car, more filed into the Carrolltowne Elementary School's gym.

The precinct's turnout motto so far, according to Meade: "Heavy and steady all day."

Cranberry Station Elementary School. 3:20 p.m. - Kelcie Pegher:

By mid-afternoon Cranberry Station Elementary had every seat filled with residents from a nearby assisted living facility, in time to miss the lines and have a seat.

Around 20 residents from Brightview Westminster Ridge took a bus at 2 p.m. to exercise their right to vote. In the 2008 election, 70.1 percent of Americans 65 or older voted, according to AARP.

The chief elections judge, Dorothy Kline, said Westminster Ridge will have four or so buses to transport residents to their polling place. Kline prepares for it by having enough chairs ready for the elderly to sit during long wait times.

As of 2:30, 520 votes were cast, which is typical for the general election, Kline said. The only time lines were out the door was this morning, but Kline said she hopes more come out to vote after work. The lull of election voting typically takes place around the afternoon and picks up again by 4:30, Kline said.

Alice L. Drummond was among those who took the shuttle from Westminster Ridge to vote.

"I was panic stricken when I watched the news with all the long lines, and I thought, 'Oh my god, I couldn't stand for three hours,'" Drummond said. "[I] just walked right in."

Drummond, who is a registered Democrat, voted for Barack Obama, as did Robert Roy, who was seated next to her.

"I don't think there's been a president that faced as many difficulties as he has in his presidency and he still is facing," Drummond said. "I think he's doing the best job he can."

Drummond's view is a common talking point for Democrats. In many speeches, Obama has discussed his predecessor's economic policies which led the country into a recession. Roy said he agreed. He thinks the president is doing a good job, he said.

Piney Ridge Elementary School 2:40 p.m. - Rachel Roubein:

Recession, unemployment, tough economy. Jobs, jobs, jobs.

Those are familiar words for voters closely following the campaigns of incumbent President Barack Obama and his challenger, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Those words are linked to promises. They're found in speeches, news releases and attack ads.

They're spoken in families' homes and by pundits, newscasters and average Joe the Plumber citizens (election 2008 flashback, anyone?).

Several Carroll County residents voting at the Piney Ridge Elementary School said the economy is their number one political motivator.

Ryan Cook, 23, graduated with a criminal justice degree from the University of Maryland in May. He recently landed a job.

He's one of the lucky ones, he said.

"A lot of my friends are struggling," he said, which is why the registered Republican and gave Romney his vote.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced last week that October's unemployment rate was at 7.9 percent. It is up 1 percent from September, which was the first month to see a figure in the 7 percentile since January 2009, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Carroll County's September unemployment rate was 5.8 percent. Last September, it was 6.1 percent, according to the bureau's data.

Another young voter at Piney Ridge Elementary School, Mike Main, 20, said he's a fiscal voter.

"I feel like [Romney's] the only one who can get us out of the debt," he said.

As of about 2:20 p.m., about 865 people had voted at the school, which is nearly 40 percent of the registered voters at the precinct, according to elections chief judge John Whitcomb.

There was a mid-day lull, but he expects it to pick back up once the work day comes to an end. Before the precinct opened, there was a double line in the school's hallway. At 2:30 p.m., the only residents in the hallway were ones coming in to vote or leaving with an "I voted" sticker tacked to their shirts.

Sykesville Middle School, 1:30 p.m., Rachel Roubein

It was a quick reprieve from collegiate life at the University of Maryland, Baltimore College.

Bill Nichols picked up his son, first time voter Alex Nichols, 19, from the college and drove him to Sykesville Middle School.

In the car, the pair chatted about politics -- one of the first few times they'd had that talk.

President Barack Obama for re-election. Yes on same-sex marriage. No to expanding gambling.

Their views seemed to align.

Alex Nichols said he's a registered Democrat.

"As was I when I was your age," said his still Democrat dad.

Youth voters came out in droves to help elect Obama and live out his vision of hope and change. We'll let the after-election numbers see if the the youth vote became disenchanted with his message or if they fought to give him another four years to enact change.

It took about 10 minutes or so for Alex to vote, while Bill waited outside (he'd voted early, along with thousands of other Carroll County residents).

As of 12:40 p.m., about 957 ballots had been cast at Sykesville Middle School. There wasn't a wait, but about half of the 15 machines were in use, according to Bob Hunt, an election chief judge.

The precinct was reporting about 200 votes per hour for about three hours, but that number had dropped off, Hunt said.

Outside stood Cole Holocker, a Century High School senior. But his 17 years of age prohibited him from casting a ballot.

But there he was standing, bundled up, occasionally running home to thaw out. The issue on his mind -- and the one on his lips -- was the election for Carroll County Board of Education.

He wanted Jennifer Seidel back in, and Jim Doolan to replace incumbent Cynthia Foley.

"I care about the students and seeing the future of our school systems," said Holocker -- president of the Carroll County Student Government Association. He attends all the Board of Education meetings and thought both candidates would fight for students.

So, he tells people to do what he can't: vote.

South Carroll High School 12:20 p.m., Rachel Roubein

Michael Hurley and Alex Henderson stand no more than 30 feet apart, catching voters eyes on the way in and on the way out of South Carroll High School.

Hurley holds a sign: Marriage = One Man + One Woman.

Henderson's on the other side of the line that's divided not only the Maryland voters but the Maryland General Assembly and the nation as a whole.

At many polling places around the county, proponents and opponents of same-sex marriage (Question 6 on the ballot) have gathered in a last ditch effort to lobby their position.

After the Maryland General Assembly voted down the measure in 2011, the following year's session gave the bill new legs. And now voters are walking in and out of polling places around the state and voting for or against allowing same-sex couples to marry.

"I just don't think it's necessary," Jim Barnes, a registered Republican, said after casting his vote inside South Carroll High School's gym. "We keep going down a slippery slope, where's it going to stop?"

Just moments before, Anna Letaw stepped outside of the school. She cast her vote the opposite of Barnes.

"That's a civil rights question for me," she said. "It's not about religion. It's about basic human rights."

She's a registered Democrat, a liberal among a red pocket inside a blue state. To her, Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is "just too darn scary."

Fact: There's more registered Republicans in Carroll County (more than 55,000) than Democrats (more than 32,000).

Inside the lobby a little after 11 a.m., voters were almost out the door. Yellow caution tape marked the weaving lines, similar to an airport security line. A makeshift yellow sign had the word "Vote" written in Sharpie, with an arrow pointing inside the school's gym.

Like many polling places, children scampered alongside their parents to get a glimpse of how voting works. Some were younger, pushed in strollers.

As of about 11:15 a.m., the precinct had about 1,467 votes, and after a slower slump, the line had picked back up, according to Barbara Savaliski, elections chief judge.

North Carroll Middle School, 10:35 a.m., Carrie Ann Knauer

Election judge Bonnie Hull said North Carroll Middle School had 911 voters by the 11 a.m. county - above average, she said, and a lot more than she remembers seeing for the primary election this year.

"It's been very steady," she said.

Beatrice Newman of Westminster said she came out to vote Tuesday because she wants to see some change in this country, starting with the president. Her husband, Bob Newman, didn't seem happy with either option in the presidential race.

"Whoever wins, you're stuck with them," he said.

"Let's hope for the best," Beatrice Newman said.

Carmen Lennartsson said she was most excited about this election because it was the first American election for her husband, Andreas Lennartsson, who is from Switzerland but became a U.S. citizen a year and a half ago.

"It was fun," Andreas Lennartsson said of his first U.S. election, and said he liked being able to take his daughter with him to the voting booth.

Carmen Lennartsson said she finds elections more interesting when there's an incumbent involved - then voters have a choice between the known and the unknown, however she wouldn't say which of the two candidates she was supporting.

Parr's Ridge Elementary School, 10:25 a.m., Rachel Roubein

Outside Parr's Ridge Elementary School, amid girl scouts selling cookies and the revolving door of voters, stood U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-District 8.

He was meeting his new constituents -- and one's he hopes he'll continue to represent if he's re-elected. And if voters approve of the newly redistricted map (Question 5 on the ballot).

Dan Grenis shook Van Hollen's hand but meeting the representative in person didn't change his vote.

"I'd love to get him out," he said.

In the 2010 election, all of Carroll County was in district 6, along with Washington, Frederick, Allegany and Garrett Counties and parts of Baltimore, Harford, Montgomery counties.

In last year's legislative session, the Maryland General Assembly approved of a new map that opponents have said is "gerrymandered" (which means the new boundaries are drawn to benefit one party). It garnered the necessary 59,200 signatures to put it on the referendum.

The issue significantly impacts Carroll County. Northern Carroll County is now in District 1, and southern and central portions of the county are in District 8.

"I think it's the Democrats attempting to realign to become favorable." Grenis said.

He and his neighbor Henry Rosenblit, both supporters of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, came together to vote. They were in and out within 15 minutes, despite lines circling the room.

They weren't as long as 7 a.m., though, when the lines snaked around "like Disney World," said B.J. Dixon, the precinct's chief judge.

Some, such as Lori Geiger, took their kids to vote. She said her 11-year-old son Matthew has been involved since Romney announced his candidacy in New Hampshire.

But Geiger said another issue brought her out today: voting to expand gambling in the state, which would allow for table games and for the construction of a casino in Prince George's County.

"I used to be a teacher in Las Vegas," she said. "I've seen the money; I've been able to see the programs and committees get the money, but I haven't seen that in Maryland."

Manchester Valley High School, 10 a.m., Carrie Ann Knauer

Voters are still coming strong, and as of 10:15 a.m., there are about 20 people in line at Manchester Valley High School, though the line is a quickly moving one. At this time of day, you see lots of parents and grandparents bringing children to the polls with them, making the polling stations a little louder and a little less somber.

Greg Brock of Manchester said he wasn't very excited about the presidential election, but he was interested in voting for the ballot questions, particularly questions 6 and 7.

"I definitely feel we need to expand the gaming so we can keep Maryland dollars in Maryland," he said.

He also voted to support question 6, he said, because he believes all Marylanders should have an equal right when it comes to marriage.

Derek Brandt of Manchester said this was only his second time voting in a presidential election, and he was at the polls Tuesday to take advantage of his opportunity to vote more than because he felt strongly about any of the candidates.

Brandt said he thinks nationally it will be a close presidential race.

"This county will probably be a little different than the rest of the state," he said, but everyone knows Maryland ends up as a blue state on the map.

Charles Carroll Elementary School, 9:10 a.m., Carrie Ann Knauer:

Election judge Linda Matthias said Charles Carroll has seen above average turnout so far this morning, with a pretty long line outside the building before the polls opened and even difficulty for voters to park on the school's small parking lot.

"We've been very busy this morning," she said.

Voter Elizabeth Koons, 21, said this was her first opportunity to vote in a presidential election, though she didn't find the experience too different than her first election two years ago.

Looking around at the other voters, however, Koons said she felt like she stood out Tuesday.

"There's never anybody my age," she said. "It's a little disappointing."

Linda Daigle-Jones of Westminster said she's looking forward to the election being over so she won't have to see any more election-based commercials.

"It will let everybody get back on track again," she said.

Daigle-Jones said she voted for President Obama, who she thought has been more consistent in his messages to voters than Gov. Mitt Romney. She also thinks that the criticism about Obama's record has been unwarranted.

"He's only had 3 1/2 years to clean up 8 years of mess," she said.

Anna Stewart of Westminster said she plans to stay up late to watch the results of the election.

"I'm a little nervous -- it's going to be close, and that's all I'm going to say," she said.

Winfield Elementary School, 9 a.m., Rachel Roubein:

At a little after 8 a.m., the before work election polls rush had let up.

The four lines -- delineated by purple, green, yellow and blue cones -- had been filled with residents from 7 to 7:45 a.m., said Victoria Unglesbee, an elections chief judge at the school.

Between 8 and 8:30 a.m., residents still trickled in and out, but were able to vote within about 10 minutes.

A little before 8:30 a.m., Mark Anderson, dressed in workout gear, assessed the elementary school's parking situation. There were open spaces, he said, so he drove in to cast his vote for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Fact: Traditionally, Maryland is a blue state whose Electoral College votes go toward a Democratic nominee. The state has 10 Electoral College votes.

Anderson said he realizes Maryland's electoral votes will likely swing for President Barack Obama.

Nate Silver, a statistician and blogger for the New York Times, has Obama at a nearly 92 percent chance of winning the Electoral College. But in his blog, FiveThirty Eight (, he's predicted the popular vote is almost tied: 50.9 percent for Obama, and 48.3 percent for Romney.

And that's exactly why Anderson said he came out to vote for Romney.

"If the overall majority is for Romney, but Obama wins the Electoral College, that should send him a message that most people don't want him," said Anderson, a registered independent.

Another registered independent chose Romney at Winfield Elementary School's polling site. Patrick Henry Pierce said he's a constitutional independent and votes for the person, not the party.

"I don't care what they are," he said. "It's what they believe. It's the love of the nation."

And for him, Romney embodies what he wants in a leader.

Northwest Middle School, 8:05 a.m., Carrie Ann Knauer:

The morning rush of voters continues with a steady stream of people coming and going from Northwest Middle School in Taneytown.

Sam Shipley of Taneytown said he was excited to be voting Tuesday because he wants to see some changes.

"I think we're going to see a new president - I hope so, anyway," Shipley said.

Shipley said he had supported Gov. Mitt Romney throughout the primary and believes he has a good chance in the general election.

"He just has much more business sense than Obama," he said. "We really need somebody to make some changes with the economy."

Nancy Kenyon of Taneytown said she has been praying that President Obama will win a second term. She said she believes a vote for Obama is voting for what will be best for all Americans, whereas Romney's focus will benefit only the rich.

"I believe it's been a very contentious election," she said.

And the cable news networks put such a slant on all the information leading up to the election, that it can really influence the way you perceive the issues, she said.

"We purposely put the other stations on to see how they're spinning things," Kenyon said.

Runnymede Elementary School, 7:45 a.m., Carrie Ann Knauer:

Election judge Becky Byer said Runnymede had about 65 people in line when the polls opened at 7 a.m. The rush is usually at the opening and again at 5:30 or 6 p.m., though more people are taking advantage of the flexibility offered by early voting.

"We'll be here all day," she said.

Ellen Marble of Taneytown said she was very excited to be voting Tuesday.

"I wanted to see President Obama get another four years," she said.

Marble, a Democrat, said she is also hoping to see ballot questions 4, 6 and 7 pass-particularly question 6, for same-sex marriage. Marble said she sees it as an issue of equal rights that she would like to see extended to all people.

Michele Wineke-Noyes, another voter at Runnymede, said she had accompanied her daughter's fifth grade class on a field trip to Philadelphia on Friday. Standing in Independence Hall, where the founding fathers formulated the U.S. Constitution, really magnified the importance of this election in her mind, she said.

"It was good for us adults - to see it there and put it all together," she said.

Wineke-Noyes said she was raised to take her voting duties seriously, so she would have been at the polls Tuesday no matter what, but this year she was especially excited about it.

"It's a good race between the presidential candidates," she said.

West Middle School, 6:40 a.m., Carrie Ann Knauer:

John Bangs of Westminster was the first of about 70 people in line at the West Middle School polls Tuesday morning. Bangs said he got there at 6:30 a.m. because he wanted to vote before going to work at his job in Howard County.

"I think it's an important election, and that's why I'm here," Bangs said, though he admitted that he votes in every election.

Bangs said the ballot questions are probably the most important part of this election, especially questions 6 and 7.

Stephanie Laufert, 19, of Westminster, was at West Middle School as a first-time voter Tuesday. Laufert said she was kind of nervous, but was glad to be able to participate.

Laufert was at the polls with her mother, Valerie Laufert, who would be dropping her back off at Stevenson University after they voted together. Valerie Laufert said it has been exciting to share this election with her daughter.

"I've been trying to help her out, we talked about different topics," she said. "It's been pretty exciting reading up on them."

Robert Doyle of Westminster, who was about the 50th person in line at West Middle School, said he wasn't very excited to be voting for the elected officials - "they're all politicians" - but was more interested in the ballot questions as well, which he thought were going to be pretty close votes.

"Some of the questions this year are very personal," he said, such as question 6 on gay marriage.

Doyle said he doesn't know if everyone would answer honestly with how they felt about the question while being polled.

"I'm just glad it will be over," he said. "If I have to hear one more question 7 commercial..."