Lines wrap around early voting polling sites across Maryland -- Gazette.Net


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What Accokeek resident Yvette Darnaby said she thought would be a quick trip to the Oxon Hill Library to cast an early vote for the 2012 General Election ended up being a two-hour-long wait.

Yet as the line continuing to grow behind her, Darnaby, 48, said she remained unfazed.

“I’ll probably get to cast my vote in hour three,” Darnaby said with a smile. “And I’m not at all mad.”

The threat of Hurricane Sandy and a lack of time on Nov. 6 inspired hundreds of local voters to exercise their civic duty earlier than planned.

Just like at Oxon Hill Library, lines across Frederick, Montgomery and Prince George’s County wrapped around buildings filled with people who didn’t want to face the crowds on Nov. 6 and hoped to avoid voting in the aftermath of the hurricane expected to hit the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area late Sunday.

At the Silver Spring Civic Building, Brian Kirchoff, 36, of Bethesda decided to vote on Saturday because of an impending trip to Kabul, Afghanistan during the Nov. 6 Election Day. Kirchoff said he did not mind seeing a line and said he was actually proud to see so many people come out.

“I hope that it sends a message that early voting is popular and that people should do more not less of it,” Kirchoff said.

About 1,000 people came to vote at the Silver Spring Civic Building as of 3 p.m. Saturday, said Donice Jeter, a member of Montgomery County’s Board of Elections.

A total number of Prince George's County early voters was not immediately available Saturday afternoon, but Daneen Banks, deputy administrator for Prince George's County Board of Elections, said there were lines at all five county locations.

"If they don’t have anything planned, most people don’t have problems standing in a line," Banks said. "They don’t get impatient. They just stand in the line and wait because they can do it at their convenience. We encourage everyone to take advantage of the opportunity," Banks said.

Curtis Harrod of Forestville waited two hours and 20 minutes to vote at the Oxon Hill Library and said once he got inside the building, it was smooth sailing, with about 18 machines to use.

“It was quicker than I thought it would be,” Harrod said. “Everything’s laid out for you in an organized manner.”

Stuart Harvey, election director for the Frederick County Board of Elections, said as of 3 p.m. there were 1,555 people who came to cast a vote at the Frederick Senior Center--the only early voting place for the county's voters located in Frederick City.

Harvey said on the surface it seems like early voting is working.

“This is only one day,” Harvey said. “It seems to be working but we don’t know if some of this is being driven by the weather. It’s hard to tell.”

According to Maryland law, Frederick County is only allowed to have one early voting site because it has fewer than 150,000 registered voters, Harvey said. Harvey said the Frederick delegation lobbied the Maryland General Assembly in the past to have two additional polling places for early voting. Harvey said the parking lots were full and Frederick City Police were needed to direct traffic.

“I think that would have helped us a lot and it would have helped the voters a lot,” Harvey said of having more than one polling location.

Blaine R. Young, president of the Frederick County Board of Commissioners said the early voting turnout had “big, big” lines. He said it was convenient for people who commute out or Frederick for work throughout the work week.

Young said having more than one location would not only be more convenient to the people who live 20 minutes away in places like Thurmont but also equitable in terms of political parties.

“Frederick County overall, the major party of registration is Republican,” Young said. “I think having one early voting center in the city of Frederick does benefit the Democratic party. I don’t have a problem with having at least one other, or as Stu pointed out two.”

nmcgill@gazette.net