‘One for the record books’: Voting centers close in Anne Arundel, results delayed statewide with long lines in Calvert County

Election day started at 7 a.m. with chilly weather, so flip flops and cargo shorts were a bad outfit choice. That didn’t stop Mitch Gawthrop from casting his ballot on Election Day anyway.

“It was not the optimal decision,” said Gawthrop, a 35-year old Deale resident, who shivered against the temperatures in the low 40s outside Southern Middle School in Lothian waiting for the polls to open.

Southern Middle was the most southern of the county’s 31 voting centers geographically. Unlike typical election years, voting centers can accept any residents' ballots. Usually, voters are assigned polling precincts based on location, but this year the coronavirus pandemic prompted the shutdown of polling locations to prevent the spread of the virus.

The previous most southern voting location was South River High School in Edgewater.

“They always forget about us in South County,” said Trisha Povlitz, a poll worker, volunteering in her first election.

Gawthrop was one of about 50 people waiting in line. Once the polls opened, voting only took about 10 to 15 minutes. The early morning rush had dissipated by about 7:45 a.m.

“I figured I would be in and out; I won’t be standing in the cold for 45 minutes,” Gawthrop said, an independent contractor, who voted for Democratic candidate Joe Biden. He sees the former vice president as more of a unifying candidate than the man he is trying to unseat, President Donald Trump.

Gawthrop was one of roughly 41,867 Anne Arundel residents who had cast their vote on Election Day as of 7 p.m., according to data from the Board of Elections. In 2016, more than 172,000 residents voted in person on Election Day. It’s unclear whether there will be a new Election Day voting record set after early voting surpassed the previous record by more than 30,000 people.

Anne Arundel County voting centers closed at 8 p.m. Tuesday and results were expected to start trickling in after the polls closed, but Calvert County voters still in line delayed the release of Election Day results statewide.

Preliminary results showed at least 112,000 voters in support of Joe Biden and about 83,000 in support of Trump. About 2,200 residents voted for Jo Jorgenson and about 900 residents voted for other candidates.

It’s the first time Gawthrop has voted for a Democrat, he said.

“I remember growing up during the Clinton years as a kid, and I just always felt like it was more of an institution that could work with people than against. I’m more of a person who thinks you can make the dream work with teamwork versus pushing everyone away.”

Around 10 a.m. Gov. Larry Hogan paid a visit to Pip Moyer Recreation Center, one of four voting centers in Annapolis. After taking a tour of the facility, Hogan declared Tuesday “Election Hero Day” and issued a proclamation honoring election workers across the state.

Asked about the anxiety voters may feel about the outcome of the election, Hogan said, “Look, the great thing about this country, this democracy of ours, is that everyone gets a chance to vote. We count the votes, and then we live with the decision.”

He continued: “And we all support the president or whoever is elected at any of the offices. And that’s the way it’s got to be. We know that there are frustrations out there, we’re doing everything we can to have a free and fair election without interference. Hopefully, we’re going to arrive at a result everyone can get behind.”

Minutes after Hogan departed the polling place, David Kelly, a 48-year-old attorney from Eastport, arrived decked out in Trump-themed attire, hat, mask and sweatshirt all bore the president’s name.

He doesn’t trust mail-in voting, Kelly said, and criticized Hogan for being a “RINO," a pejorative for conservatives that’s short for “Republican in name only.”

Despite some pundits saying the 2020 election is a referendum on the president, Kelly sees it as a referendum on the Democratic Party, he said.

“I’m sick of it all. I hope things don’t go well for everybody here today, I really do.”

Two state legislators who represent Annapolis also showed up Tuesday morning. State Sen. Sarah Elfreth and Del. Dana Jones, both Democrats, said they wanted to join the governor in a show of bipartisanship that there is a commitment by both parties to count every vote.

Neal Reed was first in line at Southern Middle Tuesday, a 45-year-old from Lothian. Reed was festively dressed wearing a blue-gray wig stitched into a red visor and a red, white and blue mask. One of his friends sported a mask with “Trump 2020” emblazoned on the front.

“It’s a big deal this year. It’s going to be one for the record books,” Reed said of the record early voting numbers seen both in Maryland and across the country. Early voting in Anne Arundel County set a new turnout record for early voting, surpassing the 76,200 early votes cast in 2016. Several states, including Texas, surpassed total votes in all of 2016 during early voting.

Reed’s voting for Trump for his economic policies and because a vote for the Republican president “is the Christian vote," he said.

A few miles up the road at Southern High School in Harwood, about 80 people had voted by 8 a.m., a poll worker said. There were no lines as people trickled in and out to cast their ballots throughout the morning.

West River resident Anne Bradshaw, a registered Democrat, wanted to “honor the system” by voting in person and said she was proud to cast a vote for Biden.

“I like the Democratic philosophy. It honors all,” said the 82-year-old painter. “I feel it’s never been more important to vote.”

And her plans for the rest of the day? “I’m going to go home and have a cup of coffee and compliment myself on getting here so early that there weren’t lines. I thought there were going to be huge lines,” Bradshaw said.

Capital reporters Danielle Ohl and Olivia Sanchez contributed to this article.

Brooks DuBose

Brooks DuBose

Brooks DuBose joined the Capital Gazette in 2019 and covers the city of Annapolis. Brooks earned a master's degree in journalism at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland in 2019. He grew up in Garrett County, the true Western Maryland.