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Low Turnout Expected, But Rain Doesn't Dampen Early Voting

Election signs outside an early voting site in Annapolis.
Christopher Connelly/WYPR
Election signs outside an early voting site in Annapolis.
Election signs outside an early voting site in Annapolis.
Credit Christopher Connelly/WYPR
Election signs outside an early voting site in Annapolis.

Thursday marked the first day for voters in Maryland to cast their choice for who will be their party’s nominee for a range of positions, from governor and attorney general to delegate and county executive. Early voting will continue for through next Thursday.

At 10 this morning, there was a line to the door at the League for People with Disabilities in Baltimore City. And the press was waiting for one of these early voters – Gov. Martin O’Malley waited to cast his vote. He says he turns up early to drum up excitement.

"By showing up myself it helps to get out the word that the primary’s now happening and we’ve moved our primary up this year so it happens on June 24," O’Malley said.

By the middle of the day about 250 people had cast their ballots at the Pip Moyer Community Recreation Center in Annapolis.

“This morning we had fairly decent flow of people in the midst of all that rain. Which really was surprising,” said Bob Ray, the Democratic chief judge at the site.

Surprising, he says, because estimates of voter turnout during this primary season are low. This year’s primary is being held much earlier than the usual September date. That’s because federal election law was changed so that members of the military had enough time to cast their absentee ballots.

St. Mary’s political science professor Todd Eberly says that this year’s earlier primary date is certain to play a role in tamping down turnout. But he says people don’t really get excited for primaries in Maryland – especially in non-presidential election years.

“You know on the democratic sides [there is] an assumption that it doesn’t really matter which of the democrats wins,” he says. “They’re all part of the Democratic Party and they would all govern the same.”

On the other side of the political spectrum, he says the loss of former governor Bob Ehrlich in 2010 left many Republican voters pessimistic that their party could take back statewide offices in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans two to one.

“It was catastrophic,” he said. “Ehrlich lost by 14 points, and I think that that has perhaps taken the wind out of the sails of many GOP voters; they just feel that no matter what, they can’t win.”

By the mid-afternoon, it was pouring rain at North County Library in Glen Burnie. But that didn’t seem to dampen the steady trickle of voters coming in. Joyce Howard, a poll worker at the site, said that the pace had been consistent since the site opened.

Buddy Howard – unrelated – is a republican who says he voted in all new people during this primary – people who will lower taxes. But he also says he will vote for a democrat for governor in the general election.

“I really like Anthony Brown – now that’s different coming from a republican, but having military background” is important, he says.

Chris Casey says he likes Charles Lollar for governor, but the race most important to him is the Anne Arundel County Executive contest.

“We’re the most important county in the state, we have some of the most critical assets,” he said. “We’re looking at a decision of who can lead the county, who can lead a $1.5 billion corporation at the end of the day. And that’s why I picked Steve Schuh.”

Lauren Green came out to cast her vote for Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown. She says is an independent-minded Democrat – and that she always turns out to vote.

“If you’re not going to get out and vote, don’t complain, because you had every chance and opportunity to do that,” Green said. “So if you’re going to vote go do that. If you vote, you have a right to complain and if you didn’t, be quiet and next time go vote.”

There are seven more days of early voting. The primary will be held on June 24.

John Lee contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 WYPR - 88.1 FM Baltimore

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Christopher Connelly is a political reporter for WYPR, covering the day-to-day movement and machinations in Annapolis. He comes to WYPR from NPR, where he was a Joan B. Kroc Fellow, produced for weekend All Things Considered and worked as a rundown editor for All Things Considered. Chris has a master’s degree in journalism from UC Berkeley. He’s reported for KALW (San Francisco), KUSP (Santa Cruz, Calif.) and KJZZ (Phoenix), and worked at StoryCorps in Brooklyn, N.Y. He’s filed stories on a range of topics, from a shortage of dog blood in canine blood banks to heroin addicts in Tanzania. He got his start in public radio at WYSO in Yellow Springs, Ohio, when he was a student at Antioch College.