Maryland Democratic officials said Thursday that a surge in request of absentee ballots for next month’s general election points to a huge turnout among Democratic voters.
Party officials and aides for Ben Jealous, the Democratic nominee for governor, held a conference call to present figures from the state’s Board of Elections, which they said show that more than 45,000 Democrats requested absentee ballots. In comparison, about 21,700 asked for those ballots at the same time in 2014.
During the same time frame, exactly 24,831 independents and Republicans combined requested absentee ballots.
Party chairwoman Kathleen Matthews said the surge’s driven by 53 percent who didn’t vote four years ago and 60 percent women voters.
“We think this is really good news,” she said. “We see this as an enthusiasm advantage. … It confirms the blue wave we’ve been pointing to.”
Because Democrats outnumber Republicans 2 to 1 in Maryland, Democratic Party officials are pushing for a voter turnout of more than one million voter for the early-voting period, which runs from Oct. 25 to Nov. 1.
But despite Democrats’ advantage in sheer numbers, polls show Republican Gov. Larry Hogan with a double-digit lead over Jealous, a former NAACP president.
The most recent poll, released Wednesday by Gonzales Research & Media Services notes 54 percent of likely voters would Hogan; compared to Jealous at 36 percent. In addition, 67 percent Democrats believe Hogan “is doing a good job” as governor, according to the poll.
As for the Democratic surge in absentee ballots, Hogan campaign manager Jim Barnett said early ballots favor Democrats because of the contested Democratic primaries and voters could request a general election absentee ballot at that time.
“Absentee ballot requests actually do not matter. What matters is absentee ballot returns,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if there is a blue wave of turnout because so many Democrats are choosing Gov. Hogan and his bipartisan approach over Ben Jealous and his extreme and irresponsible ideas.”
Travis Tazaelaar, campaign manager for Jealous, said the absentee numbers doesn’t assess voters’ dissatisfaction with the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Jealous has said he opposed the Senate’s vote to approve Kavanaugh. The Baltimore Sun reported Hogan met with the paper’s editorial board Oct. 5 and said he didn’t “feel educated enough to make that decision” on whether to support Kavanaugh, who was sworn in Saturday after contentious Senate confirmation hearings marked by allegations of sexual assault.
“[Voters and organizers] are fired up … especially Larry Hogan’s comments around the fact he wasn’t educated enough to take a position,” Tazelaar said. “Federal issues affect Marylanders.”