Early voting in Maryland sets record

WASHINGTON — Early voting in Maryland is up dramatically over four years ago.

When the polls closed June 21 — the final day of the early voting period — 221,000 votes had been cast. That’s a 56 percent increase over 2014.

A breakdown by party shows 170,356 Democrats opted to vote ahead of the June 26 primary, while 47,736 Republicans went to the polls during early voting.

Overall, there are 2,143,288 “eligible active” voters registered as Democrats in the state compared to 1,003,153 registered as Republicans, according to the Maryland Board of Elections.

Is the jump in the number of voters taking advantage of early voting indicative of increased interest or a change in voting patterns?

“We won’t know until Election Day whether this is an increase in new voters or a redistribution of voters — folks who would have voted on Election Day, but then decided to take up the convenience of early voting,” said Mileah Kromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher College.

The primary election is June 26.

Kromer also cautioned against any assumptions that the numbers show a re-energized Democratic electorate.

“I don’t know if we can assume that but, certainly if we look across the state, there are some hotly contested races on the Democratic side,” she said.

Kromer pointed to the county executive races in both Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties, where the number of Democrats turning up to vote was highest during early voting.

The gubernatorial race is also generating a great deal of interest, with nine names appearing on the primary ballot on the Democratic side. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, the Republican incumbent, is running unopposed.

Kromer said turnout tends to spike when voters feel that there is a tight contest — and believe that their vote really does count.

“If you look at Montgomery County, where you have really hotly contested races for county council as well as for county executive — and it’s a Democratic stronghold — you’re going to see more Democrats pulled to the polls,” she said.

Kromer said it’s not at all clear that the recent debate over immigration — and the Trump administration’s shifting position — has been a driver in getting people to the polls.

“It’s difficult to tell at this time — and you have a governor that’s pushed back against Trump policies,” said Kromer, referring to Hogan’s decision to recall National Guard personnel — two pilots, two mechanics and a helicopter — from where they were stationed in New Mexico.

While Kromer is cautious about attributing the increased participation in early voting to a surge of enthusiasm among voters, she added: “We won’t know until it shakes out on Tuesday.”

The primary is Tuesday, June 26. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Find out more information you need to know about voting in Maryland’s primary here.

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