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Early voting turnout continues to climb headed into final day

Today is the final day of voting in Maryland prior to the Nov. 8 election.

Elections officials were prepared to receive voters today from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at 67 early voting locations across the state. Today's also the last day to register to vote at one of those stations. One cannot register to vote in the election after today.

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Early voting turnout has been high. As of Thursday afternoon, more than 800,000 Marylanders have cast ballots in the hotly contested presidential race between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump — well more than the 430,500 Marylanders who took advantage of early voting during the last presidential election in 2012.

Democrats — who outnumber Republicans in Maryland 2 to 1 — have turned out for early voting at an even greater rate. About three times as many Democrats have voted to date. Opinion polls have showed a large lead for Clinton among Maryland voters.

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Many voters of both parties interviewed at early voting centers Wednesday said they had made up their minds in the presidential race months ago. At the Arbutus Recreation Center in Baltimore County — the largest swing jurisdiction in the state — voters were coming in at an average of about 30 per half hour, according to chief judge Tracy Tanner.

Among them was Samantha Lewandowski, a 39-year-old dietician and longtime independent voter, who said no recent news events swayed her away from Clinton.

"I had my mind up on the issues quite some time ago," she said.

Brandon Kiplinger, a 27-year-old machinist from Arbutus and a registered Republican, said recent news accounts, including the resignation of CNN contributor Donna Brazile after it was revealed she leaked information to the Clinton campaign, just sealed his decision to vote for Donald Trump.

"It all helps my vote," he said. "It all makes it seem more concrete."

In Towson, the polls were busy Wednesday morning, said Denise Isaac, chief Democratic judge for the early voting site at Towson University's administration building. The Towson location has served between roughly 1,300 and 1,500 voters each day of early voting, according to State Board of Elections data.

There, 20-year-old Towson University junior Lauryn Hightower said she waited in line for about 30 minutes to vote for Clinton, though the political science major preferred Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary. "There's no use in splitting the vote," Hightower said.

Orrin Yesko, 56, of Ruxton, said he also voted for Clinton. He said he likes Clinton's positive message compared to what he called a negative message from Trump.

But Democrat Dale Frederick, a 59-year-old Carney resident, said he was stickikng with Trump. "I'd like to see some change," he said.

Frederick said he has been meaning to change his voter affiliation, as he has been voting for more Republican candidates in recent years. He said he doesn't necessarily agree with some of Trump's opinions, but believes that, once in office, the candidate would surround himself with a better support staff and "straighten out his attitude."

In addition to the presidential race, Maryland voters are casting ballots in a U.S. Senate race between Democrat Chris Van Hollen, Republican Kathy Szeliga and Green Party candidate Margaret Flowers. There also are races for U.S. Congress, Baltimore mayor and Baltimore City Council.

This article was shared on Nextdoor. Visit The Sun's Nextdoor profile page for top stories and news on Baltimore City.

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Baltimore Sun Media Group reporters Jon Bleiweis and Rachael Pacella contributed to this article.

Twitter.com/lukebroadwater

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