Maryland voters weather steady rain, ballot problems on Election Day to exercise civic enthusiasm

The Baltimore Sun

Other locales might have drawn more star power in recent days — from President Donald Trump jetting to 11 rallies in six days to Oprah seemingly taking up residence in Georgia — but Maryland voters descended on their polling places on Tuesday with a determined intensity of their own.

Some braved bursts of intermittent rain and others longer-than-usual lines for a midterm election to vote for governor, congressional representatives and other races.

Arielle Karp, a 35-year-old advertising saleswoman, had a couple of priorities as she went to vote at Lake Elkhorn Middle School in Columbia, high among them “keeping Donald Trump in check.” That affected her vote for governor, despite the fact that she thought the incumbent Republican Larry Hogan had done “an OK job.” She went with Democratic challenger Ben Jealous.

“I just don’t trust Republicans to hold the president accountable,” she said. “I can’t vote for a Republican the way Trump has taken over the Republican Party.”

Others, though, set aside their antipathy for Trump and crossed party lines to vote for Hogan.

"Even through I'm a Democrat, I like him," said retired Navy civilian employee Donna King, 78, voting at the former Tulip Grove Elementary school in Bowie. “He was down to earth, he was warm. ... He got rid of some of the high taxes."

Some voters found crowds, and there were reports of some polling places in Prince George’s County running low on ballots. There were the usual Election Day snafus like malfunctioning scanners and at least one power outage. But enthusiasm seemed high, many noted.

“The climate of politics now, I think everyone has to do their civic duty and participate in this process,” said Brian Walsh, a self-described independent who voted at Friendship Valley Elementary School in Westminster. “Actually I was very excited to vote today. Out of all my elections I think this one, I was pretty fired up to get out here.”

Walsh said he was interested in seeing a balance of power between Republicans and Democrats in Washington, and in supporting Hogan.

Rain began tapering off by early afternoon, in plenty of time for the evening rush that Jared DeMarinis, the state Board of Elections’ director of candidacy and campaign finance, said he expected.

“Hopefully the rain didn’t stop anyone from turning out,” he said.

For many, the governor’s race was the draw. In a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-to-1, some voters said they voted Democratic down the ballot — but for Hogan at the top of it.

East Baltimore resident and registered Democrat Tyrone Wilson, 62, was one of them.

“Honestly, I didn’t vote for him four years ago,” he said of Hogan. But “over the four years that he’s been governor, the state has grown. The economy has grown. The jobs have grown.”

Though they are in the minority in Maryland, there were still Republican voters who wanted to take an election widely being viewed as a referendum on Trump to show support for the president.

“I am here in [Mechanicsville] voting because our President asked me to,” said Republican Kitty Banner of Finksburg. “It’s definitely about how you feel about Trump. And I feel good about him.”

By 11 a.m., precincts were reporting turnout of between 9 percent and 15 percent — and as high as 21 percent in Queen Anne’s County — said Nikki Charlson, deputy administrator of the state elections board. Late Tuesday afternoon, Charlson said she was still compiling updates provided from across the state at 4 p.m. Registered voter turnout averaged 44.5 percent statewide in 2014.

By late afternoon and the post-work rush still to come, Howard County, which was picking an executive, had hit about 30 percent turnout, Charlson said. Baltimore City reported a 24 percent turnout by 5 p.m.

At some polling places, numbers surpassed voting totals from recent elections by the afternoon. At Riderwood Elementary School in Baltimore County, more than 681 people had voted by 2 p.m., compared to about 500 people during all of Election Day 2016.

DeMarinis said, “It’s been a relatively smooth election so far.” But there were still hiccups.

Three morning voters at the central Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore reported portions missing from ballots.

“It was concerning, to say the least,” said Mount Vernon resident Alexandra Adams, who also said voting there had started 30 minutes late. She reported the problems with ProPublica’s Electionland project; ProPublica shared the tip with The Sun.

But city election director Armstead Jones said the chief election judge at the library disputed those accounts and said all voters had received both pages of the ballot. By late morning, two members of the city election board went to the library to assist, he said.

Voters said polls opened late at at least two other city precincts, Beth Am Synagogue in Reservoir Hill and Federal Hill Preparatory School. Jones said he was not aware of a delay in Federal Hill. The Beth Am precinct opened 20 minutes late, but no voters were turned away, he said.

The voting day extended beyond 8 p.m. in some precincts in Towson and Prince George's and Charles counties, delaying the release of early voting numbers until all polling places were done for the night, said Linda Lamone, the Maryland State Board of Elections administrator.

She said she had reports that some polling stations in Prince George's County were short on paper ballots, but said "as far as we know, the ballots have been delivered to all of the polling places."

Some city, Baltimore County and Anne Arundel County precincts reported temporary troubles with ballot scanners, but issues were quickly resolved, officials said.

Among Anne Arundel voters who cast ballots without incident was Jealous. He arrived at Lake Shore Elementary School in Pasadena about 8 a.m., and put up several campaign signs outside before voting with his 6-year-old son, Jack, and his 13-year-old daughter, Morgan.

“It feels great,” Jealous said after voting. “It’s quite something to be on the ballot for governor.”

Hogan, another Anne Arundel resident, cast his ballot during early voting.

Harford County polling was taking place under temporary leadership because the county’s veteran elections director, Kevin Keene, and deputy director Dale Livingston were placed on administrative last week.

“The elections board is confident that the election is operating smoothly,” Cindy Allred, the acting director, said late Tuesday morning.

Charlson said officials could not comment on the suspensions because they were personnel matters.

Baltimore Sun Media Group reporters Michael Dresser, Ian Duncan, Cody Boteler, Jon Kelvey, David Anderson, Danielle Ohl, Catherine Rentz, Jessica Anderson, Christina Tkacik, Liz Bowie and Kevin Rector contributed to this article.

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