The line at the McFaul Activities Center in Bel Air, one of four early voting centers in Harford County, started at the front entrance and curved around the rear corner of the building in the early afternoon Monday.
Maryland’s voting centers opened to lines of hundreds of people at locations across the state Monday, the first of eight days of early voting. In addition to the McFaul Center, Harford’s early voting centers are located at the Edgewood Rec Center, the Aberdeen Activity Center and the Jarrettsville Fire Hall.
The ballot includes the race between Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden, congressional seats and two questions asking voters statewide about amending Maryland’s constitution. It’s the first time early voting has been offered in 2020 and during the coronavirus pandemic. Election officials opted against allowing voters to cast ballots early during the June primary.
People stood in line, all wearing masks, and the line at the McFaul Center moved at a steady clip Monday.
Bel Air resident Angie Sokolov, a registered Democrat, held her 5-year-old daughter, Waverly, as they waited.
“I just want to make sure that my vote is counted and get it in early,” said Sokolov, who was near the entrance of the activity center and reported that she had been waiting for about 10 to 15 minutes.
Waverly is the younger of Sokolov’s two daughters — her older daughter was in school Monday afternoon — and she said she wants both to know “how important it is to vote, and for them to see how important it is for all the other people,” indicating her fellow voters.
“Even though they don’t quite get the whole process, at least they know that were making a difference,” Sokolov said of voting.
Jenea Seaberry, 18, of Bel Air, waited to cast her vote for the first time. The 2020 graduate of Bel Air High School and current Harford Community College student was with her mother, 44-year-old Jahneen Keatz.
“I just want to see a change in the office [of president] and in the country,” said Seaberry, who is registered as unaffiliated.
“I’m tired of the way things are right now,” she added. “Now that I’m old enough, I want to be able to do something about it.”
Seaberry said later that she voted for Biden. She listed a number of Biden’s policies that she likes, such as those related to racial justice, and how “he actually cares about science.” She also praised his pick of California Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate.
Seaberry noted that Biden is “just not” President Trump, “in addition to everything else.”
Lisa Krick stood along Route 165 in front of the Jarrettsville Fire Hall, another of Harford’s four early voting locations, holding a sign for President Trump.
“I am committed to making this country great again, and also from not allowing us to slip into socialism from the other party,” Krick said. “It’s so critical I’ve put my life on hold, just to campaign for President Trump.”
About 58% of Harford voters cast a ballot for Trump in 2016.
Approximately 300 people came out to vote within the first two hours at the fire hall, election judges at Jarrettsville said, with about 75 or so people in line when the early voting center opened at 7 a.m. Masks and hand sanitizer were available for voters who needed them.
People moved through the line at a relatively quick pace at the Aberdeen Activity Center late Monday afternoon.
“Fifteen minutes, in and out,” Havre de Grace resident Carol Thompson said when asked about her experience in the polling place.
The registered Democrat said it is, for her, “extremely” important to vote, noting that “I don’t trust the mail.”
Aberdeen resident Holli Cason also praised the efficiency of the polling place, saying that “it wasn’t bad, the line was moving.”
Fred Arku, of Havre de Grace, visited the polls with his 6-year-old granddaughter.
“The democratic experience, it’s one of a kind, especially for those of us who migrated here,” said Arku, who immigrated to the United States from Ghana as a youth 42 years ago.
The registered independent stressed that he wants to instill in his granddaughter the importance of voting.
“It was quite an experience for me,” Arku said of voting in U.S. elections, noting that he was too young to have voted in Ghanaian elections at the time he left his native country.
Dominique Jefferson voted for just the second time as an American.
Originally from South Africa, now living in Aberdeen, Jefferson said her mother imparted on her the importance to vote at a young age.
“I always believe when you make your vote count, you make a difference in your country,” she said. “It makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something and when we have a family, I’ll continue to instill that in [our children.”
Her husband, Andre Jefferson, added that being able to vote, particularly for women and minorities, should not be taken for granted.
“If you don’t do this, it’s like turning your back on the people who risked their lives for us to be here — all the men who came before us in uniform who shed blood and all the people who marched just so minorities and Americans like ourselves have the right to vote,” he said.
More than 54,000 of Harford County’s nearly 186,000 active registered voters requested a mail-in ballot for the general election, according to data provided by Board of Elections officials last week. Those completed ballots can be placed in drop boxes at any of the four early voting locations or the Board of Elections headquarters in Forest Hill.