In the first four days of early voting in Maryland, nearly 279,000 voters cast ballots during early election, which represents a 137 percent increase from the midterms four years ago, according to unofficial numbers from the state Board of Elections.
For one reason rests with 79 early voting centers opened statewide, compared to 64 in the previous gubernatorial race.
The numbers are expected to rise when early voting ends Thursday, Nov. 1, especially with the high-profile race between Republican incumbent Gov. Larry Hogan and Democratic challenger and former NAACP President Ben Jealous.
“The numbers tell us two things: more people are early voting than in 2014 and the early voting numbers are strongest in the 1st Congressional District and those with a county executive race [in Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Montgomery counties],” Todd Eberly, political science professor at St. Mary’s College in St. Mary’s, Maryland, said Monday, Oct 29.
Democrats outnumber Republicans 2 to 1 in Maryland, but polls show Hogan could become the state’s first Republican governor re-elected in more than 60 years. A Jealous victory would make him the first Black governor in Maryland.
In Prince George’s County, more than 36,000 registered voters cast ballots between Oct. 25-28, the third highest total in the state. Although two additional early voting centers opened to expand total to 11, only 6 percent of the county’s 579,253 voters cast ballots that lags behind the statewide average of 7 percent.
Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Montgomery counties all rose above 7 percent of voters who cast ballots in those jurisdictions. Hogan planned to hold a rally in Baltimore County on Tuesday, Oct. 30.
“That wouldn’t be a good sign for Ben Jealous,” Eberly said. “If I were the Jealous campaign, I would double down my efforts in P.G. County and Baltimore City.”
Jealous visited both jurisdictions during early voting with high-profile politicians such as Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland), Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) and Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax.
Jealous also chatted with members of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 400 and shoppers at Giant Food Store on Friday, Oct. 26.
Elise Steadley, 7, whispered a question in Jealous’ ear near the frozen food section comprised of lunchmeat and bacon.
“I asked him could he make schools safe for little kids and put more money in the schools,” Elise said standing next to her mother and friend.
“That’s what I plan to do,” Jealous said to Elise who attends Maya Angelou French Immersion School in Temple Hills.
James Pierce of Largo, who’s old enough to vote, chatted with Jealous outside the store and said he wants more money invested into the county public schools.
“You got my vote,” Pierce said before he walked inside the store.
Besides the governor’s race, local contests and ballot questions are also taking place in Prince George’s.
Voters will have 11 other questions to review that include five charter referendums to borrow nearly $400 million on construction and renovation projects for public works and transportation, library system, public safety, community college and county buildings.
Some voters will choose school board candidates that include incumbent Sonya Williams against social studies teacher Arun Puracken in District 9 and incumbent vice chairwoman Carolyn Boston and former Democratic Central Committee member Belinda Queen in District 6.
Two years ago, voters chose to expand County Council seats from nine to 11. This year, three people are running for the two seats: County Councilman Mel Franklin (D-District 9) of Upper Marlboro; Calvin Hawkins, a Democrat, and former senior adviser to County Executive Rushern L. Baker III; and Felicia Folarin, an insurance agent and registered Republican.
Andrew Carter, who voted on the first day of early voting Thursday, Oct. 25, didn’t support the council expansion and only voted for one person.
“I know Calvin. He will pay attention to the northern area of the county,” said Carter of Lewisdale who sported his “I Voted” sticker on his sports jacket Friday. “Voting makes a statement. You have to vote, but also pay attention to what’s going on because … there are other things happening than just casting a vote.”
Sydney Harrison, clerk of the county’s circuit court, chatted with voters outside Upper Marlboro Community Center as a candidate to replace Franklin. He won the Democratic primary by 55 votes over Tamara Davis Brown, a telecommunications attorney who’s organized a write-in campaign.
“I respect the process,” he said. “I look forward to serving with all the individuals in the race. We had eight, great candidates in that District 9 race. When we all come together, District 9 will be better served.”