Early voting in Maryland ended Thursday with a record number of ballots cast in advance of the June 26 primary election, which sets the stage for dozens of races in November — including which Democratic candidate will challenge Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.
By the time early voting centers closed Thursday night at 8 p.m., 222,100 Marylanders had voted — 56 percent more than the 141,590 that went to the polls early in the eight-day early voting period in the last gubernatorial primary in 2014.
Outside the early voting station at the Reisterstown Senior Center on Thursday, candidates and campaign volunteers stuffed paper handouts and flyers into the hands of voters before they trickled inside to cast their ballots. Campaign signs jutted out of the grass featuring the names and faces of candidates for governor, judge, delegate, senator and other offices.
One campaign volunteer used his shirt to wipe sweat from his brow after chasing a voter with a pamphlet. A woman flipped through a handful of flyers before voting. Another, with a pile of dreadlocks on her head, shouted, “It’s done!” as she strutted out of the polling center.
During the primary election four years ago, 19 percent of voters cast ballots at early voting sites, compared with 76 percent who voted on the day of the 2014 primary. The remaining 5 percent cast absentee and provisional ballots.
Two years ago, during the 2016 presidential primary, 18 percent of voters cast early ballots.
The percentage of people who voted early this year won’t be known until the final canvass, but if the overall turnout is similar to 2014, it could be closer to one in four voters.
In both Baltimore County and Baltimore City, early voting was slightly above the statewide average of 6 percent of eligible voters.
Early voting turnout as of Wednesday ranged from 13.4 percent of eligible voters in Talbot County to 3 percent in Allegany County. More votes were cast in Prince George’s County, 40,807, than in any of the state’s 23 other jurisdictions. Montgomery County was second with 35,963. Baltimore County was third with 35,678.
Both jurisdictions have competitive contests for county executive and council seats as well as the contested race for the Democratic nomination to face the Republican governor in November.
Democrats were casting more early votes than Republicans by a margin of more than 3-1, but that may reflect that Hogan faces no opposition on the GOP side. The Democratic field features six serious candidates with the resources to send volunteers to early polling places and to encourage supporters to vote early.
Democrats were hopeful that the increase signifies a blue wave of opposition to President Donald Trump that they hope will help defeat Hogan. But analysts said early voting patterns have not proven to predict turnout in general elections.