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A smooth opening day at one Howard early-voting center

Contact ReporterHoward County Times

When Yvonne Creek drove into the parking lot of Ridgely’s Run Community Center in Jessup on the first day of early voting in her shiny, gray 2017 Honda Accord, she brought three friends from Morningside Park, an independent senior living community, down the street from the Howard County polling center.

“It’s very important for us as African-Americans to vote, because for so many years we could not do it,” the 67-year-old retired Nationwide insurance claims examiner said. “We’re just happy to come and vote.”

Creek, who has voted early for five years in the county, used to vote by absentee ballot, but said she likes the “chance to get out and explore,” while talking to candidates or campaign volunteers on her way to the voting booths.

Ridgely’s Run was one of four early-voting sites in Howard County that will open daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Thursday, June 21.

Democratic Chief Election Judge Denyse Wright-Thisedale said there had been no technical glitches, and Art Blume, the Republican chief election judge, said they had “a number” of people who selected too many candidates and were given new ballots — a situation he’d expect 10 to 12 people to have throughout the day, noting it wasn’t unusual.

During the 2016 presidential primary, about 20 percent of those casting ballots took advantage of Maryland’s early voting days.

On Thursday afternoon, Wright-Thisedale said turnout had been “pretty good” at the site. Wright-Thisedale, who has served in the position for more than 30 years, said it was a “little slower” than the 2016 presidential primary and the 2014 gubernatorial primary in the opening hours.

Blume said turnout was about the same as 2014, but he’d expect a rise in Democratic turnout due to a slew of candidates in party primary races, such as the gubernatorial contest.

Incumbent Gov. Larry Hogan has no opponent in the Republican primary and there are six Democratic candidates on the ballot.

Key county races include county executive, school board and County Council.

Voter Shelia Downey, 63, said everything went smoothly.

“That’s what I’m talking about,” said Downey, a Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. retiree.

Marylanders first skittered into early voting in 2010 after legislation was passed in 2007 and 2009 to enable early voting and spell out guidelines.

Early voting enables people who may not be able to make it to the polls on designated election days because of other obligations, including work, to cast their vote in one of the county’s four early polling centers.

“If I can vote early, that’s what I’m going to do,” Downey said.

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