Early Voting Underway; Runs Through Thursday, Nov. 1

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A forest of signs at the entrance to the parking lot outside the Kent County Library in Chestertown – site for Early Voting – Photo by Peter Heck

Early voting opened in Maryland on Thursday, Oct. 25.  Right from the first hour, polling booths across Maryland had long lines and high turnouts.  State officials reported that 170,00 Marylanders voted in the first two days, Thursday and Friday, Oct 25 & 26. This was more than double for the first day of early voting in fall 2014, the last mid-term election.

On hand to keep everything running smoothly – (L-R) Director of Elections Cheemoandia Blake, Elections Board Vice President, Lisa Thompson, County Tech Tameka Johnson – Photo by Jane Jewell

Thursday, Nov 1, is the last day for registering and voting.  You can register and vote right at the same time.  Remember that 18-year-olds may also register and vote for their first national and state elections.  17-year-olds who will turn 18 before Nov 6, may also register and vote during the early voting period. On election day, Tuesday, Nov 1, only those voters who are already registered may vote.

In Kent County, a steady stream of voters showed up at the Kent County Library’s Chestertown branch, the only early voting site in the county.

At some points, lines of voters stretched from the door of the library’s meeting room to the middle of the library’s main room, almost to the circulation desk. According to Cheemoandia Blake, the county’s director of elections, 216 voters had cast ballots as of 1:20 on Thursday – one of them a provisional ballot.  Voting went smoothly with the line moving quickly.

Of these 216 voters in the first three hours of the first day of early voting, about 52 percent were registered Democrats, about 35 percent Republicans and 11 percent unaffiliated. Two voters cast provisional ballots. Two voters—both unaffiliated — also took advantage of the opportunity to register to vote during early voting. Officials said they expected more people to register and vote during the remainder of the early voting period.

Waiting to vote! (Among others are Sam Scalzo, Sydney , Susan Percival, Bron Percival, Mabel Mumford, and Court Clerk incumbent and candidate Mark Mumford on right in hat.) – Photo by Jane Jewell

The library will be open for early voting every day through Nov. 1, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., including Saturday and Sunday. Blake said Sunday is traditionally the quietest day during early voting. Last election in 2016, only 9 votes were cast in the county on Sunday.  This year, over 200 people voted on Sunday.  By 5:00 pm Monday, Oct. 29, approximately 14% of all the registered voters in Kent County, that’s 1,796 people, had cast their votes.

As of the end of September 2018, there were a little over 13,000 registered voters in Kent County.  Of these, just over  6,000 are Democrats and about 4, 800 are Republicans.  In addition, a little over 2,000 Kent Countians registered as Unaffiliated.  About 200 others are registered as Green Party, Libertarians, or Other.  The exact totals are in the chart below.  These numbers do not include those registered during October and Early Voting days.

Voters are asked to give their name, address and the month and day of their birthday to poll workers who then check registration and hand out the ballots. – Photo by Jane Jewell

Several candidates for office were seen among those voting – including Delegate Jay Jacobs, Commissioner Billy Short, and Clerk of the Court Mark Mumford. Jacobs said he had been tracking other counties in the 36th District, which he represents in the General Assembly, and that voting was heavy in all of them. He said he had observed a lot of enthusiasm among voters while campaigning.

The ballot this year is a long one, filling both sides of the sheet. Offices being contested are Governor of Maryland, state Senator, and Delegates to the General Assembly, U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, and county offices including county commissioner, State’s Attorney, Sheriff, Clerk of the Court, and members of the Board of Education. There are also two constitutional amendments on the ballot, one requiring funds raised by gambling to be used solely for education and the other allowing new voters to register on Election Day. Marylanders can now register and vote during the Early Voting period but can’t register on Election Day itself.

Jay Jacobs, candidate and current incumbent for District 36 of the Maryland General Assembly, and his wife Dawn Jacobs hold up the League of Women Voters Guide – Photo by Jane Jewell

Individual paper ballot voting booths. – Photo by Peter Heck

Maryland has both electronic voting and paper ballots – voters’ choice. For early voting, there are seven paper ballot booths plus one electronic voting booth.

The paper ballots are fed into an optical scanner which digitally records the votes on a computer.  Sometimes the scanner can’t read a ballot and the ballot is rejected.  One of the poll workers told us that this had happened two times Thursday morning and it happened again while we were there.  An election judge checks to see what caused the problem.  The problem is usually easily spotted and corrected.  The “box”–it’s actually an “oval”–is generally not correctly or completely filled in. If necessary, the voter completes and scans another ballot.  Rejected ballots are securely set aside as the number of ballots received by the polling booth must match the number of ballots cast plus the number of unused ballots.

Elections Chief Judge Larry Wilson – Photo by Jane Jewell

An important tip to avoid having the scanner reject your ballot is to completely darken the oblong shape next to the candidate’s name.  But do not go over the line and mark the space outside the magic oval!  Poll workers said that the scanner also tends to reject ballots where the voter has put a check or an X in the oval instead of filling it in.  This scanner system works much the same as many of the standard school tests where you also need to carefully completely fill in the space.  Yes, we have to color carefully on our ballots. What we learned in kindergarten is still relevant.

After scanning,  the paper ballot goes into a secured box with all the other original paper ballots to serve as a check and a paper audit trail.

Bob Ingersoll has voted! He’s smiling because he filled in the “ovals” correctly and the scanner has accepted his ballot.

Sample ballots are available at the library, along with a League of Women Voters’ guide to candidates.

  Kent County Voter Statistics – from Maryland State Board of Elections Website  Page with Registrations by County as of Sept is here.

  •     13,139 Registered Voters as of Sept 30, 2018
    •     6,009 Democrats
    •     4,802 Republicans
    •     2,094 Unaffiliated (often referred to as “Independent”)
    •     30 Green Party
    •     80 Libertarian Party
    •     102 Other

This article will be updated with more Early Voting information as available.

See you at the polls!

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