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Maryland Voters Break Early Voting Turnout Record

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Rachel Baye/WYPR
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More than 161,000 Marylanders turned out for the state's first day of early voting Monday, setting a record for the most ballots cast in a single day of early voting in state history, according to the state Board of Elections. About 1.1 million Marylanders have voted so far. 

The previous record of 143,494 early voters on a single day was set on the last day of early voting in 2016's general election.

Baltimore voters also topped the city’s 2016 first day early voting turnout record by 22% on Monday. The city board of election said 11,411 city voters cast a ballot on Monday, compared to 9,318 on the comparable 2016 day. Historically, the first and last days of early voting are the busiest in the Maryland.
 
The earliest voters braved a dark, foggy morning to line up well ahead of 7 a.m, when centers across the state opened. That included Jo Ann West, who was first in line at Honeygo Run Community Center in Perry Hall. She arrived at 3:30 a.m.

The White Marsh resident runs an assisted living facility for veterans and needed to accompany one of them to vote in Baltimore later that morning.

“I know I’m going to be in two lines today, so I did myself first and then I’ll go do my resident,” West said.

Tuesday was a generally smooth day for early voting, especially compared to this year’s primary Election Day, when voters had only one day to cast a ballot in person and faced hours-long lines throughout the state — as well as ballot errors in parts of Baltimore. 

The first day of early voting saw some lines throughout the Baltimore region approach the 90 minute mark, while many had voters in and out in under 15 minutes, all while voters and election judges practiced social distancing.

Ty Quan, the chief election judge at New Era Academy in Baltimore’s Cherry Hill neighborhood, said polling centers are stocked with cleaning materials.

“All of our judges have on face shields, and we have masks and we have gloves, hand sanitizer, we have wipes to wipe down the machines after use, we're swapping out pens,” Quan said.  “We're not letting any judge, any voter reuse any of the same materials.”

A recent poll from Goucher College found that about half of likely Maryland voters are expected to vote in person. Democrats are more likely to vote by mail, while Republicans are more likely to cast a ballot in person. As of Tuesday, 950,000 of the 1.7 million Maryland voters who requested a mail-in ballot had sent them back.

Tuesday’s in-person voters listed a few different reasons for choosing to visit a polling center. Some said the state board of elections never sent them a mail-in ballot, even thought they sent in an application. Others, like Craig Jefferson from Baltimore’s Pigtown neighborhood who cast a ballot at Camden Yards, said voting in person is simply preferable. 

“Voting by mail is easy and convenient, but I live 10 minutes walk from here and this way I know that I’m actually doing it,” Jefferson said. “It’s going somewhere authentic and official and I have peace of mind.” 

Jefferson voted for Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate for president. Like other blue city voters, he thinks the president vastly mishandled the pandemic. 

Clara Hamlin cast a ballot for Biden at New Era Academy for the same reason. Hamlin, a cancer patient who is vulnerable to the coronavirus, said she’s voting like her life depends on it. 

“The stupid president that we have now, he has to get out of there,” she said. “You cannot control COVID, you can't control it. And my life depends on it.”

As for casting a ballot in person, Hamlin said voted in person is what she was raised to do.

Other voters said this is the most important election in our lifetime for different reasons.

“It’s a choice between law and order and a capitalistic society versus a socialist society,” Essex resident Ken Stratemeyer said.

The polls closed at 8 p.m., with no lines at Camden Yards.  

Early voting will continue from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. through Nov. 2, the day before Election Day.

 

WYPR's Rachel Baye and John Lee contributed to this report.

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