Voters at the South Carroll Swim Club speak about their experience at Carroll County’s new early voting site. The senior center in Westminster was the lone early voting spot until the 2018 Maryland gubernatorial primary election.
As Maryland’s 2018 gubernatorial primary election began Thursday, June 14, early voters in Carroll County for the first time had to choose where to cast their ballots.
In selecting the South Carroll Swim Club as an additional voting location, “we’re trying to cater to the Mount Airy and Sykesville area,” said Katherine Berry, the county’s director of elections. “It was tough to find a place in the southern part of the county.”
A single person waited outside the swim club’s doors as the clock struck 10 a.m. — the official start of the election. But South Carroll residents soon trickled in, thankful to avoid the approximately 20-minute trek north.
“I think it’s great,” said Sharron Jacobs, a Woodbine resident and one of the first to try out the new voting location. “It’s much more convenient and not as crowded” as the Westminster voting destination.
A record number — 19,756 to be exact — of county residents turned out to cast early ballots in the 2016 presidential election, with some experiencing long wait times at the Westminster Senior and Community Center, which had previously served as Carroll’s lone early voting site.
But less people turn out to vote in gubernatorial primary races. Out of the four elections held in the state of Maryland, gubernatorial primaries garner the smallest turnout, Berry said.
And the scene at the swim club Thursday suggested this year might not deviate from historical trends, even though plenty of time remains for early voters to cast their ballots before primary election day on Tuesday, June 26, when polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.
As of 2 p.m. Thursday, the day early voting began, 335 people voted at the Westminster location, while 85 voted in South Carroll. Polls will remain open for early voting through Thursday, June 21, including Saturday and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day.
Statewide races include governor, comptroller and attorney general, as well as representatives in the Maryland House of Delegates and Senate for their respective districts. Voters will also choose party candidates for representative in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.
County races include the Board of County Commissioners, Circuit Court and Orphan’s Court judges, register of wills, Circuit Court clerk, sheriff and state's attorney. Republicans and Democrats will also vote for members of their respective county central committees.
A nonpartisan primary for the Board of Education is also on the ballot, which will whittle down a list of 11 candidates to six who will run in November's general election.
Maryland has a closed primary, which means Republicans and Democrats can only vote in their party’s race. Independent voters and those belonging to any other party may request a nonpartisan ballot to cast votes for school board candidates only.
While there weren’t droves of people voting Thursday morning, the citizens, candidates and spouses of candidates that did turn out seemed appreciative of the option to vote closer to home — even if it should’ve happened sooner.
Others chose to cast their ballots early because election day interfered with vacation plans or family time. Some said they prefer to vote early. Frank Robert, who’s running for county commissioner in District 5, voted bright and early so he could be ahead by one, he said.
Some voters were content with two voting locations. Others wanted more.
For the Westminster-South Carroll area, two voting locations are great, Jacobs said. “But I don’t know about northern Carroll.”
Asked about the new voting location, Karen McGinnis replied passionately, “Love it.” But McGinnis, who’s from Eldersburg, also said Hampstead, in the north part of the county, could use an early voting post.
At the Westminster senior center, voters lauded the decision to open up an early voting option in South Carroll.
Hampstead resident John Covalt agreed. “I know they needed one down in South Carroll,” he said. But he’s not convinced the county needs more early voting locations, as “the population in North Carroll really isn’t that big.”