Despite a crush of last-minute registrations in Maryland, Gov. Martin O'Malley and elections officials sought to assure voters yesterday that the state can handle an increased turnout without unduly long lines at polls.
About 354,000 people have newly registered to vote in the state this year - a number that is about half the size of Baltimore City's population - and officials are projecting a record 85 percent turnout, O'Malley said during a news conference at Northwood Elementary School in Baltimore. To handle the crowds, more electronic polling books and voting machines have been added, and extra poll workers have been recruited.
O'Malley urged voters not to be discouraged if they have to wait to vote, and he predicted that high turnout could be handled "in a very orderly way."
Armstead Jones, Baltimore's election director, said that officials received nearly 30,000 registrations submitted or postmarked in the two days before a deadline this month, and he expects the waiting time at the polls to be no longer than 45 minutes.
"We've gotten so many concerns about lines," Baltimore City Council President Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake said. "I almost want to laugh when I hear about that, especially when I stand in line at Starbucks in the morning. No one cares. If I see a line there, I'm not moving.
"This is worth standing in line for," she added. Officials suggested that voters familiarize themselves with ballot questions before heading to the polls. In Baltimore, voters will decide 16 bond proposals, as well as statewide proposals on whether to allow early voting and to legalize slot-machine gambling. Officials also recommended that voters go to the polls between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.