Nearly 60,000 people in Maryland have turned out for early voting, a service the state started offering in 2010.
In Howard County, 2.55 percent of eligible voters cast ballots as of Wednesday, compared with 1.88 percent statewide.
“The turnout is light, but for a presidential primary that has a returning president on the Democratic side, this is the turnout I would expect," said Guy Mickley, Howard County's director of elections.
The Maryland primary is Tuesday, April 3 but early voting gives voters flexibility in when they want to cast their ballots. Early voting started March 24 and ends at 8 p.m. Thursday, March 29.
In the 2010 gubernatorial primary elections, the first year early voting was in place, it netted 2.44 percent voter turnout.
Election officials in Maryland predicted the popularity of the program would grow.
“What we’ve seen from other areas in the country, as early voting catches on, it does become very popular,” said Montgomery County Board of Elections spokeswoman Marjorie Roher. “There are not lines in most cases at all; normally there’s one or two people at each of the poll places. It does give people the opportunity to choose when they want to vote and what location.”
Mickley predicted overall turnout for the primary in Howard County would be 20 to 25 percent, “and that may be high," he said.
In terms of overall voter turnout, early voting won’t make much of an impact, said Donald F. Norris, professor and chairman of the Department of Public Policy at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.
“Virtually nothing improves voting turnout except when people are really, really excited about what’s going on in a campaign,” Norris said in an interview Thursday.
In fact, this month Republican presidential candidates have made swings through Maryland—which has approximately 935,000 registered Republicans versus 1.96 million Democrats—to get people excited about their campaigns.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s visits included , and on Wednesday, Texas Rep. Ron Paul visited the University of Maryland. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was at Salisbury University Tuesday.
Below is a selection of early voting turnout numbers and voter turnout percentages at various locations in Maryland as of Wednesday. For a full list, go here.
- Howard: 4,695 voters; 2.55% turnout
- Anne Arundel: 6,557; 2.46%
- Baltimore County: 9,394; 2.27%
- Prince George’s: 7,668; 1.52%
- Harford: 2,493; 1.97%
- Carroll: 1,487; 1.39%
- Montgomery: 8,011; 1.38%
- State: 59,716; 1.88%