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All the spin that's fit to print: Maryland election is a boon for these small businesses

A man walks away past campaign signs after voting during early voting at a community center October 25, 2018 in Potomac, Maryland.
A man walks away past campaign signs after voting during early voting at a community center October 25, 2018 in Potomac, Maryland. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Political candidates routinely pledge to fight for more jobs even though they often have no direct authority to boost employment.

But the mere act of campaigning does spur hiring in election years: Just ask the 600 printing companies in Maryland that employ 16,000 people with an average pay rate of $28 per hour, said Jay Goldscher, president and CEO of Printing and Graphics Association MidAtlantic.

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With Tuesday’s election approaching, the work of the industry’s political printers can be seen everywhere Maryland residents look these days: in mailboxes, door slots, medians and front yards.

“We’re working six to seven days a week, sometimes 24 hours a day” because of the Nov. 6 election, Goldscher said.

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According to finance reports filed with the Maryland Board of Elections, campaigns have reported spending $3.35 million in 2018 through Oct. 21 on printing and campaign materials. That’s a 45 percent increase over the $2.3 million reported for the same time period during the 2014 gubernatorial campaign.

Typically, the Friday before Election Day is “D-Day,” Goldscher said. “If it’s not in the mail Friday, it’s not going to hit anyone’s mailbox before Tuesday.”

Early voting — the eight-day period that ended Thursday — has only “accelerated the pain” of the hard work and tight deadlines, he said.

“The work began to hit two weeks ago,” Goldscher said. “It’s great for our industry.”

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Maryland’s eight-day early voting period wrapped up with a record number of voters casting ballots in person before Election Day. The election will determine whether GOP Gov. Larry Hogan or his Democratic challenger, Ben Jealous, will take an oath of office for a four-year term in January.

Just visit Jack Weber’s 28,000-square-foot building in Remington, home to the six-decade-old company Uptown Press.

“It’s rocking and rolling right now,” Weber said.

Campaign finance reports show that candidates already reported spending $215,000 with Uptown Press, which employs 30, for printing and campaign materials and direct mail.

“Elections are good for the economy and it’s been really good for me,” he said.

In addition to printing services, Weber provides data analysis of candidates’ districts to improve their targeting of voters. He said he has been surprised at how many more unaffiliated voters there are this year — an observation supported by recent registration data.

Unaffiliated voters are registering at higher rates than Republicans and Democrats in Maryland.

The number of Maryland voters registered as independents has grown faster than those for either major party since the 2014 midterms. The state elections board says the number of registered voters overall topped 3.9 million in September. That's just shy of the record high, set in January 2017.

As of the end of September, the latest period for which the state Board of Elections provides numbers, 18 percent of voters were registered as independent — officially termed “unaffiliated.” That’s an 8 percent increase over September 2014. Democrats and Republicans each recorded 6 percent increases over the four-year period.

What surprises Weber even more is that clients haven’t taken his advice to aggressively target those voters.

“That’s been the biggest change I’ve observed from 2014 to 2018 — we have a huge influx of unaffiliated voters,” Weber said. “They’re an untapped resource. A lot of campaigns don’t target the unaffiliated voter.”

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