University of Maryland senior Doris Ihejirika voted early Friday because classes are in session on Election Day, plus she had the day off from her job as a campus tour guide.
“It was easier for me [Friday],” the 22-year-old Forestville resident said minutes after voting at the College Park Community Center. “Voting is something young adults like myself should do to have [their] voices heard.”
Ihejirika and thousands of Prince George’s County residents have chosen to cast their ballots during the state’s early-voting period, which kicked off Thursday, Oct. 27 and ends Thursday, Nov. 3. Those who are more traditional can still wait until Election Day on Nov. 8.
The first three days of the early voting period had more than 57,000 Prince George’s residents taking advantage. The county has almost 576,000 registered voters, the second-highest total in the state behind Montgomery County.
According to the county’s Board of Elections, nearly 36,000 residents registered to vote in this year’s general election, roughly 13,000 more than in the 2014 midterms. In comparison, the county had about 58,000 four years ago when President Obama sought re-election.
Election officials have said the general election draws more interest, especially in this year’s heated presidential contest between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump.
Thousands of Prince Georgians chose Clinton and the Democratic slate that includes the open Senate seat race between Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland), Republican Kathy Szeliga and Green Party candidate Margaret Flowers. The winner will replace the retiring Barbara Mikulski, who’s held the position for 30 years.
Van Hollen, who spoke to commuters at Largo Town Center Metro station on the first day of early voting before the polls opened at 8 a.m., said voters cannot be complacent in the heavily Democratic state, referencing Republican Larry Hogan’s victorious gubernatorial bid two years ago against former Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who’s now running for the 4th Congressional District seat.
“Sometimes people think Maryland is a done deal, but it’s not. We need to make sure people are out there to vote,” Van Hollen said. “We want to keep the Senate seat Democratic.”
Not everyone chose Clinton and Trump.
Andria Rucker of Fort Washington wrote in Sen. Bernie Sanders (I), who had a hard-fought and at times contentious Democratic primary against Clinton.
“It was hard, but I had to get out here … to vote — I still got ‘the Bern,’” she said. “Both [Clinton and Trump] are money-hungry. Whoever’s in the president’s seat, I hope [that person] will lead the people the right way.”
Prince George’s voters also have referendum questions on the ballot that include expanding the county council from nine to 11 members and allowing officials to borrow nearly $500 million to renovate, repair and construct new buildings as part of the county’s proposed fiscal 2017-22 capital improvement program.
Most of the voters interviewed supported the measures to use taxpayer money toward public safety facilities, county buildings, public works and transportation structures, community colleges and libraries.
“It’s important to do that,” said Delores Carson of College Park after voting with her husband, Benjamin. “The county should step in and help. That’s why I pay taxes.”
But not everyone agrees on the “Question D” proposal to add two at-large members to the county council. The referendum also stipulates that any of the current council members who represent a district cannot serve more than two consecutive terms.
Arthur Robinson of Lanham said the question connects with term limits, a claim opponents have argued as the impetus so current council members can remain on the board. In addition, it could cost up to $1 million to fund the two positions and staff.
“I was against it because a lot of people get in there and get stale and they get complacent,” he said. “People don’t want to admit that.”
Ihejirika voted in favor of “Question D” to ensure more voices are on council.
“It’s always important to have more opinions on the County Council,” she said. “I think it would be more representative of the county and be more representative of the people.”
Early voting in Maryland ends Thursday, Nov. 3 at 8 p.m. For polling locations in Prince George’s County, visit http://bit.ly/2d19aXH.