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After record-breaking start last week, early voting in Maryland slowed Saturday

After record-breaking turnout last week to begin early voting, Baltimore-area elections officials reported that far fewer voters came out on Saturday — but they said that was not unexpected.

“I’m not sure it’s slowing down because it’s slowing down or because there’s just not that many voters left,” said Guy Mickley, director of the Howard County Board of Elections. “Typically, the Saturday and Sunday (before the election) were the lowest voting days in every cycle.”

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In Baltimore City, “all of my folks say we’ve been low today,” said Baltimore Election Director Armstead Jones. He said people were likely busy — it was Halloween — “and a lot of people do their shopping.”

On Friday, the city reported that 9,067 people had voted in person. The total was 3,386 on Saturday as of 3 p.m. Early voting in Maryland continues through Monday.

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The first day of early voting last Monday saw a record-breaking 152,031 ballots cast across the state, compared with 123,623 in 2016, which was the last presidential election before the current one on Tuesday.

Last Tuesday was almost as popular — 149,130 ballots were cast. In 2016, 123,314 people voted on Day 2. Those figures do not include provisional ballots cast during early voting, which will be considered and counted after Election Day.

On Saturday, the state Board of Elections said 59,128 early voters had cast ballots as of 4 p.m.

Early voting centers were to be open on Saturday and Sunday until 8 p.m., and the state board had been encouraging voters on Twitter to “make voting early part of your Halloween plans.”

Local elections officials say comparisons with 2016 can be problematic.

That’s in part because of the timing of early voting. In the past, Maryland has opened its early voting window earlier, allowing the weekend voting to fall two weekends before Election Day, rather than the weekend immediately before.

The large number of Marylanders voting by mail this year — owing to safety concerns posed by the coronavirus pandemic — also complicates comparisons with four years ago.

“I’d be comparing apples to oranges,” Mickley said. “There’s no way to compare this election to any other election.”

Before the weekend, Howard County had been averaging about 10,000 voters per day across its five early-voting sites.

Halfway through Saturday, Mickley said 2,087 people had voted in person.

Election officials, hoping to avoid long lines on Election Day, have asked voters to consider coming in at off-peak times.

Jones, the Baltimore City elections director, said he hoped Saturday’s relatively low turnout "doesn’t mean people are going to be coming out in droves on Tuesday, adding: “I wish they’d come today and tomorrow.”

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