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Early voting, featuring same-day registration, to begin in Maryland

Same-day voter registration available during early voting this week

For the next seven days, Del. Cory McCray, a co-founder of the BEST Democratic Club, is launching an intensive operation.

McCray and a team of supporters plan to target the neighborhoods surrounding Baltimore's six early-voting centers, knock on doors, encourage folks to vote and drive them to the polls.

This year, early voting in Baltimore and across the state has a new importance: While registration has closed for the April 26 primary election, people can register and vote on the same day during early voting.

"We've never had same-day voter registration before," McCray says. "It's a big opportunity."

Armstead Jones Sr., the city's elections director, says he's expecting a sizable turnout for early voting, which runs from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday through April 21. There are 67 early-voting locations around the state, including six in Baltimore and nine in Baltimore County.

"I think it's going to be a decent crowd, a nice crowd," Jones said. "I think we may start off very well on Thursday. Some folk are motivated by one or two candidates. We are prepared with extra judges."

To register to vote during early voting, residents must bring a document proving their address.

Jones and others believe there could be increased turnout this year, given the number of competitive races in the Democratic and Republican primaries, and the lack of resolution in the presidential nominating contests.

For the first time in years, Marylanders' votes could matter in the national primaries of both parties, between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side and Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich on the Republican side.

Kasich campaigned in Savage and Catonsville on Wednesday with former Gov. Robert Ehrlich Jr.; former President Bill Clinton appeared at the Leisure World retirement community in Montgomery County to stump for his wife.

There are also high-money, competitive races for U.S. Senate, between Democrats Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen, and for Baltimore mayor and many City Council seats.

Edwards said Wednesday she would kick off early voting at the Silver Spring Metro station, where she'll meet with Maryland voters on their morning commutes. Van Hollen planned to gather with community leaders to speak with voters in front of the Wayne K. Curry Sports and Learning Complex, the largest early-voting location in Prince George's County.

Candidates for Maryland's eight seats in the U.S. House of Representatives also are on the ballot.

In Baltimore, for the first time, races for mayor and City Council are at the same time as the presidential races, a change that was intended to increase turnout.

Voter registration numbers have ticked up steadily in Baltimore since the death last year of Freddie Gray. There were 362,000 voters in Baltimore at this time last year; there are 374,000 now.

The number of voters statewide has grown by more than 1 million in the last year.

Baltimore's leading mayoral candidates — state Sen. Catherine E. Pugh, former Mayor Sheila Dixon, lawyer Elizabeth Embry, businessman David L. Warnock and City Councilman Carl Stokes — all planned to push voters to the polls during early voting.

"There's a real awareness in early voting," Warnock said at a campaign event Wednesday in Canton. He said his volunteers have been making calls and knocking on doors to remind residents about early voting. "I think that will definitely help us."

Warnock planned a rally at the B&O Museum Park on Pratt Street for Saturday.

"We're going to have food, we're going to have music, we're going to have a ton of people. … We're actually going to walk over to an early-voting station," he said.

Many organizations are pushing for turnout during early voting.

One effort is being led by the Rev. C. W. Harris, a lifelong Sandtown resident, who pledged to live on the roof of 1947 Pennsylvania Ave. until twice as many Sandtown residents vote in this election as in 2011.

Harris planned to climb to the roof of the Newborn Community of Faith Church and camp out there until 514 Sandtown residents cast ballots.

"This is an extreme measure to let our community know how important it is to get out and vote," he said in a statement.

McCray said he plans to push for some of the thousands of ex-felons recently granted voting rights to come to the polls during early voting. He championed the legislation in the General Assembly that will allow those who are on parole or probation — more than 40,000 people — to vote

"We have no excuse not to get them out, especially the people who live in walking distance," he said.

Sean Yoes, the host of the "First Edition" radio show on Morgan State University's WEAA station, said early voting could play a large role in who wins the election.

"There may be hundreds or even thousands of ex-felons who register to vote and may cast votes in this election," he said. "There are a few different voter registration drives going on, and several of them are targeting ex-felons."

Jones said he expects an increase in voter turnout, but he doesn't predict the huge wave of registrations seen during President Barack Obama's first run for office.

"We've seen a little rush in the last week where people were turning in registrations," Jones said. "But in 2008, we had really big numbers. That was the first year of Obama. I don't think we'll see anything like that again."

Maryland has 3.8 million registered voters, including 2.1 million Democratic and 1 million Republicans. Baltimore has 295,000 Democrats and 31,000 Republicans registered to vote.

Baltimore Sun reporter Jessica Anderson contributed to this article.

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Early voting

•Early voting takes place from April 14 through April 21 from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m.

•There are 67 early-voting locations in Maryland, including nine in Baltimore County, six in Baltimore City, five in Anne Arundel County, four in Harford County, three in Howard County and one in Carroll County.

•Same-day voter registration is allowed during early voting. To register, a resident must bring a document that proves where he or she lives. This document can be a driver's license, ID card, paycheck, bank statement, utility bill or other government document.

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