Lines ease as Maryland voters take on lengthy ballot

By |
Photo - Ballot (ThinkStock photo)
Ballot (ThinkStock photo)
Local,Maryland,Kate Jacobson

Montgomery County elections officials say they don't expect huge lines during early voting or on Election Day itself, despite Maryland's historically lengthy ballot and the long waits voters encountered last weekend.

On Wednesday, early voters sat in lines of 15 to 20 minutes as polls reopened after a two-day shutdown prompted by Hurricane Sandy.

Last weekend was extremely busy for polling locations because many people were voting in anticipation of the storm, said Montgomery County Board of Elections spokeswoman Marjorie Roher.

(See sample ballots for Montgomery and Prince George's counties)

"The majority of people were waiting in line because they were afraid of the storm's impact," said Roher, who was at a polling location in Silver Spring over the weekend. "That's why we had such huge crowds on Saturday and Sunday -- which were not typical."

Early voting in Maryland was extended until Friday because of Sandy, and the polls will be open until 9 p.m. instead of 6 p.m.

There were reports of 90-minute wait times in parts of the state Wednesday, but the wait was much less -- about 15 to 20 minutes -- at a Rockville polling location.

Todd Eberly, a political science professor at St. Mary's College of Maryland, said the state has an unusually long ballot this year, which means it might take longer to actually vote.

But he found lines were fairly short and it didn't take him long to vote early Wednesday morning.

"As the days progress, it sort of trickles down," he said. "You have the people who were eager to go out and vote on the first day, and then you start to see less and less. It helps on actual Election Day -- the lines shouldn't be nearly as bad."

Rebecca Cohencious, 24, and Megan Deutsch, 29, both from Montgomery County, voted Wednesday because they were headed out of town. The two read election literature and caught up on the seven Maryland and two Montgomery County ballot issues as they waited in line.

It occurred on them as they were headed to the polls that the lines might be monstrous, and both were surprised to see a line wrapping around the building.

"But there's no choice," Deutsch said, "You have to vote."

"It's worth the wait," Cohencious quickly added.

Because there are so many major ballot issues this year -- same-sex marriage, gambling expansion, the Dream Act, redistricting -- Roher said it might take some time for residents to cast their votes. That's why the state pushed hard to give out sample ballots and literature.

Roher said election officials tested to see how long it would take people who had filled out a sample ballot to vote. They were in and out in about a minute.

But typically, "We're getting people in and out of the polling place within five minutes," she said.

kjacobson@washingtonexaminer.com

View article comments Leave a comment
Author:

Kate Jacobson

Montgomery County reporter
The Washington Examiner