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More than 850,000 Marylanders cast ballots during early voting

Maryland early-voting turnout surged past 850,000 on Thursday — the final day to cast ballots before the general election.

With lines reported into the night at some polling places Thursday, at least 150,970 had checked in to vote by 10:15 p.m. Those voters brought the number of ballots cast during early voting to nearly 860,000, nearly double the amount from four years ago.

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The record turnout for early voting, elevated by more voting locations and days to vote, means more than 22 percent of the state's registered voters will have cast ballots before Election Day on Tuesday.

"It's been going at a good clip," said Linda H. Lamone, Maryland's elections administrator. "I think it's exciting. We do all this work to get ready for an election, and to have all these people participate is just wonderful."

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The turnout has been particularly strong among Democrats. Democrats have cast about three times as many ballots as Republicans. Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1 in Maryland.

Many Marylanders have been motivated to vote in the hotly contested presidential race between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump — more than the 430,500 Marylanders who took advantage of early voting during the last presidential election in 2012.

Despite the crowds, election officials have reported no serious issues. Baltimore elections director Armstead B.C. Jones Sr. said the city's board of elections prepared well for early voting and has enough judges ready for Tuesday's general election.

Baltimore's primary election in April was marred by reports of judges who didn't show up for work and 1,650 ballots that were handled improperly.

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Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who cast her ballot during early voting, said there were long lines but few complaints among voters.

"It definitely seemed like there were more judges," she said. "From talking to Armstead, they were still doing training to ensure there were even more judges for Tuesday. I was pleased about that. ... I did not feel it was an inordinate wait time. There were very few people I saw who came in, looked at the line and said 'forget about it.'"

Rawlings-Blake is not seeking re-election.

Polling indicates Maryland is one of the most supportive states in the country for Clinton's campaign. The analytics website FiveThirtyEight gives Clinton a 99.9 percent chance of winning the state. The site says Wyoming is the most reliable state for Trump. He has a 99.1 percent chance of winning there.

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 Congress, Baltimore mayor and other local offices.

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