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'Low but steady' turnout seen at Maryland polls

Voting across Maryland was "low but steady" Tuesday with issues of "vote flipping" reported in some areas.

Shortly before midnight, with nearly 90 percent of precincts reporting, turnout was nearly 40 percent for the day. Another 8 percent voted early.

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In 2010, 54 percent of eligible voters cast ballots statewide, with Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley easily defeating Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. The bulk of those voters came out on Election Day. The rest cast early, provisional and absentee ballots.

"I would say that's low," Guy Mickley, election director in Howard County, said of the county's turnout. In 2010, turnout at the polls nearly reached 50 percent.

Armstead B. C. Jones Sr., Baltimore's election director, was not optimistic that the city's numbers would match the 2010 total turnout. "That would mean you'd have to double it" before polls closed at 8 p.m., he said.

At the top of this year's ballot was a choice between Democrat Anthony G. Brown and Republican Larry Hogan for governor. Maryland voters also were electing a state attorney general and comptroller, along with eight members of the U.S. House of Representatives and 188 members of the state legislature.

Nikki Baines Charlson, deputy administrator at the state Board of Elections, said election workers across the state were reporting "low but steady" turnout but did not have a final tally.

The Maryland Republican Party has called on the state board to investigate the issue of "vote flipping." Party officials say about 50 voters in 12 Maryland counties complained that machines "flipped" their Republican votes to count toward Democratic candidates.

By 5 p.m., the state board had received reports about 61 faulty voting machines and 25 — out of the 17,500 in operation — were taken out of service. Every voter involved in those complaints was able to cast ballots for the candidates they wanted to vote for, said Linda Lamone, administrator of the state elections board.

At Eutaw-Marshburn Elementary in the city's Madison Park neighborhood, voters faced a slight delay about 9 a.m. when a small line formed to check in. But Vivian Adigun didn't mind. She said voting Tuesday held more weight than usual for her, given the 150th anniversary of Maryland Emancipation Day, which marked the state's official abolishment of slavery on Nov. 1, 1864.

"It's my duty to vote. People have fought and died for the right to vote," said Adigun, a 68-year-old retired dancer and occupational therapy assistant.

Defense attorney Russell A. Neverdon Sr. already had a high hurdle to clear to clear in his quest to become Baltimore state's attorney, after his cash-strapped campaign failed to garner enough signatures to get onto the ballot as an independent candidate. But he said supporters trying to write in his name encountered troubles at the polls Tuesday.

"People are saying that as they have been trying to type in my name, when they press 'record,' they have to do it over and over and over before it finally catches," Neverdon said while shuttling among polling locations. He said that at at least three other locations, seniors were told they needed to produce a form to write in a candidate.

He is challenging the Democratic nominee, Marilyn Mosby.

The Rev. Andrew Foster Connors said volunteers with Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development fanned out across the city to encourage people to vote and help get them to the polls, if necessary.

But Foster Connors, who is a leader in the group and pastor of Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church, added, "We have heard our fair share of people saying they aren't excited about this election."

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Some Annapolis residents were disoriented Tuesday by having to go to a new polling location away from their usual Rolling Knolls Elementary School. Once voters found the new site at a church in an office complex, they had little to no wait.

Gross Scruggs, 67, a retired Independent voter, said he votes in every election.

"I wish people would not be so consumed about issues. Instead of issues, one needs to vote ... for the way people operate in the real world," he said.

Voters arrived at a steady clip midmorning at one of Maryland's largest senior communities: Leisure World in Montgomery County. The community has so many voters that it is home to three polling locations.

Peggy Graham, a 69-year-old substitute teacher, was among them. She said she never misses a chance to vote even though she has become somewhat disillusioned with politics.

"Nobody's right. If you're a Democrat, you have no good ideas, and if you're a Republican, you have no good ideas," said Graham, who said she nevertheless tends to vote for Democrats. "All the politicians have these wonderful promises, but they can't fulfill them because of the opposing party. It's just frustrating."

So why does she still cast a ballot?

"Guilt," Graham said, flashing a smile.

"I think I might make a difference somewhere," she added, turning serious. "You hope it makes a difference."

Baltimore Sun reporters Scott Dance, Carrie Wells, John Fritze, Justin Fenton and Catherine Rentz and the Capital Gazette contributed to this article.

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