Nearly 1 in 5 Maryland voters already have cast ballots as early in-person voting ends and mail-in voting continues ahead of Election Day

Maryland’s eight-day early voting window came to a close with a strong finish Thursday as 88,055 people cast ballots.

In total, 381,972 took advantage of early in-person voting, making their picks before Election Day on Tuesday. That figure rivals early voting turnout in previous years — beating 2014, when eventual Gov. Larry Hogan overtook Anthony Brown for an open gubernatorial seat, and topping 2010, the year early voting began but on a limited basis.


This year again features an open gubernatorial seat. Baltimore Democrat Wes Moore and Frederick County Republican Dan Cox are competing for the office. Voters also are making selections for comptroller, attorney general, Congress, General Assembly and a number of local races.

Turnout thus far looks positive, particularly when the widespread use of mail-in ballots is considered. As of Thursday, 633,276 Marylanders had requested mail-in ballots, which became popular during the pandemic as the state switched to a hybrid election format.


Of the mail-in ballots requested, 344,124 or 54% already have been cast, according to the Maryland State Board of Elections. Combined with early voting turnout, 726,096 Marylanders — about 18% of eligible active voters — had participated in the election as of Thursday.

Total participation rates for the past three gubernatorial elections have ranged from 45% in 2014 to 59% in 2018.

More mail-in ballots are expected to flow into local election board offices in the days ahead. Voters have until 8 p.m. on Election Day to place them in a drop box or have them postmarked. Elections officials across the state prepared for a deluge of mail-in ballots by seeking a court opinion that allowed elections officials to begin counting ballots early. Some counties have taken advantage, particularly areas where mail-in voting is most prevalent.

In past gubernatorial years, return rates for mail-in ballots, then known as absentee ballots, have hovered around 75-80%, however usage was substantially lower pre-pandemic.

How many voters will participate on Election Day itself remains to be seen. John Willis, Maryland’s former secretary of state under Democratic Gov. Parris Glendening, cautioned that voter behavior is harder to predict this year as Marylanders continue to shift their voting preferences.

“We’ve never had an election like this,” Willis said. “The methods of voting, the patterns, are changing rapidly.”

Willis said the numbers show mail-in voting continues to heavily skew Democratic, even slightly more than in 2018. But “don’t get overconfident,” he said of Democrats. Republicans already are turning out more than Democrats in some areas and it’s not clear what the partisan turnout gap will be in-person on Tuesday, he said.

Maryland benefited from good weather during the early voting period this fall — strong storms passed through the area during early voting for the July primary — and elections officials reported few problems with the process.


In Carroll County, election staff stepped up security at three early voting sites toward the end of the early voting window and announced plans to have additional security from the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office and local police on Election Day.

On Tuesday, police were called to the Westminster Senior Center after the vice chairwoman of the Carroll County Republican Central Committee got into a dispute with election judges there. Police escorted her away.

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In Harford County, reports of an increased police presence outside an early voting center in a racially diverse area prompted concerns about voter intimidation. The county sheriff’s office said the officers had congregated because they were voting after a shift, but said the office reemphasized guidelines to officers patrolling voting locations.

David Levine, an elections integrity fellow with the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a nonpartisan initiative within the German Marshall Fund of the United States, said he was pleased to see the early voting turnout so far.

“I’ve been heartened to see Maryland voters vote in the numbers that they have in early voting and am hopeful that they vote in even higher numbers over the next couple of days,” he said.

Levine said early voting both by mail and in person is widely helpful for voters and election administrators alike.


Some campaigns’ attempts at pushing voters to only vote on Election Day — including a campaign aide of Republican attorney general candidate Michael Peroutka, who recently asked supporters to stand in lines around 6 p.m. on Election Day — makes everyone’s jobs harder, Levine said.

“That’s really disconcerting because early voting helps make elections more secure, more accessible and easier to administer,” Levine said.

Polls will open on Election Day at 7 a.m. and will remain open until 8 p.m. Those in line when polls close will be allowed to vote.