Early Voting Up in Anne Arundel County
The county is on track to break its 2010 early-voting numbers, but it lags behind most Maryland counties that have already surpassed their previous numbers.
Early voter turnout in Anne Arundel County is on track to be higher than 2010, despite the interruption of Hurricane Sandy.
As of Thursday night, 8 percent of the county's registered voters had voted compared with an 8.74 percent early-voting turnout for the midterm elections—a difference of 644 fewer votes. With early-voting continuing through Friday, Anne Arundel County was expected to exceed the 2010 early figures.
"Wait until we have the final numbers," said Joe Torre, the director of Anne Arundel County's Board of Elections. "As of 2:20 p.m. today we already had 4,569 votes cast. Those are unofficial numbers of course."
He said waiting times on Friday have consistently been around the two-hour mark with an average of 700 ballots being cast per hour. He expects Friday to be the highest turnout yet.
Voter turnout across Anne Arundel county surged on Saturday and Sunday ahead of Hurricane Sandy. Voters waited in lines for up to three hours in order to vote with many of them citing concerns about the storm.
High winds and heavy rains forced Gov. Martin O'Malley to cancel early voting on Monday and Tuesday. Polling places re-opened Wednesday, and O'Malley extended their hours and added an additional day to make up for lost time.
In Annapolis, record turnout continued after the storm. The city's polling place captured the county's highest turnout for a single day of early voting on Thursday with 2,044 ballots cast—329 percent higher than the same day in 2010.
Torre said that record would likely be broken by Friday's turnout.
Despite its higher numbers, Anne Arundel lags behind other counties, such as like Montgomery County where early voter turnout has already doubled from 2010, and Talbot County where just over 18 percent of its population has already voted.
As of Friday morning, Anne Arundel County was just one of two counties in the state that had yet to exceed its 2010 number.
Anne Arundel County's Democrats are also voting in larger numbers than they did in 2010. Registered Democrats have cast 52 percent of the early votes in 2012 compared with 49 percent in 2010. Republican early voters have shrunk from 38 percent in 2010 to 32 percent in 2012.
What the increased turnout means for candidates and the various ballot questions is not clear, according to Donald Norris, Chairman of the Department of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
"There is little or no evidence that early voting matters in overall turnout or in overall turnout among sub groups of voters—elderly, young, minorities, etc.," said Norris. "So I am not inclined to say anything about this except that turnout is up."