Early Voting Numbers Nearly Double in Montgomery County

Early Voting Numbers Nearly Double in Montgomery County

Voters at polls Thursday were divided on their choices for county executive

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Signs, campaign workers and voters outside the Jane Lawton Community Recreation Center in Chevy Chase on Thursday afternoon

Andrew Metcalf

Montgomery County voters cast nearly double the total number of votes during early voting this year than in the last gubernatorial primary in 2014, according to results released by the State Board of Elections after early voting ended Thursday night.

A total of 35,963 county voters cast ballots during the week-long early voting period before Tuesday’s primary compared to the 18,875 who cast votes during the week of early voting for the 2014 primary. The county’s early voting total this year outpaced every jurisdiction in the state except Prince George’s County, where 40,807 voters cast ballots.

The early voting returns showed a significant number of voters cast ballots in Silver Spring as well as Chevy Chase and Potomac. The Silver Spring Civic Center site led the county with 6,525 votes—the fourth most in the state behind a site in Baltimore County and two in Prince George’s County. The site with second largest number of ballots cast in the county was The Potomac Community Recreation Center with 4,429, followed by the Jane Lawton Community Recreation Center in Chevy Chase with 4,270.

A total of 31,998 Democratic voters cast ballots in that party's primary in the county compared to 2,917 Republicans and 978 unaffiliated voters.

The roughly 90 percent increase in the county most likely can be attributed to voter interest in this year’s competitive Democratic races for governor, county executive and County Council as well as seats in the Maryland General Assembly. The more than 100 candidates seeking local and state offices resulted in an influx of campaign workers who approached voters to hand out literature or talk about their candidates at county polling centers. The county executive position and four County Council seats are open this election cycle due to new term limits in the county that will force incumbents out of office. County Executive Ike Leggett had planned to retire despite term limits.

The county’s surge in early voting outpaced an increase in the number of ballots cast statewide. About 56 percent more Maryland voters cast ballots early this year compared to 2014.

At the Silver Spring Civic Center poll workers outnumbered voters Thursday afternoon. One poll worker likened the scene to a beachgoer who throws a piece of bread to a seagull only to be deluged by a flock seeking the food—a voter who accepted a piece of campaign literature from one worker was soon deluged by nearly a dozen others.

On Thursday, Bethesda Beat spoke with more than a dozen voters at primary polling locations in Chevy Chase, Rockville and Silver Spring about who they selected in the Democratic primary for county executive. The race features six candidates—County Council members Marc Elrich, George Leventhal and Roger Berliner as well as businessman David Blair, former Rockville mayor Rose Krasnow and state Del. Bill Frick (D-Bethesda)—vying for the county’s top elected position.

The voters were mostly divided between support for the progressive Elrich and more moderate Blair, but a few also said they voted for Krasnow.

Amy Jesse of Bethesda said she selected Elrich after emerging from the Chevy Chase early voting location because of his decision to use the county’s campaign public financing as well as his positions on the environment and health care. She said receiving a sample ballot in the mail helped her navigate the long list of candidates running for county, state and federal offices.

“I appreciated getting a sample ballot early enough to be able to do my own research,” Jesse said.

Alexander Boyle and his wife, Betty, of Chevy Chase Village, both said they voted for Blair.

“He has the most realistic economic development and jobs development plan for the county,” Alexander Boyle said. He added that Blair has a clear vision on how to grow the economy and that he is “desperately anxious to see him win.”

Joann Tucker of Bethesda said she voted for Krasnow.

“I voted for a lot of women today, except where I didn’t have a choice,” Tucker said while standing in front of a sign that said “Vote for more women” at the Chevy Chase polling location. “Frankly it’s about time more women are elected to office.”

She added that she chose Krasnow over her second choice—Blair—because of the experience Krasnow gained serving as Rockville’s mayor from 1995 to 2001.

Anu Nehru of Bethesda said she selected Blair because the group she joined after the Women’s March in Washington earlier this year—Peace Progressives—decided he was the best candidate.

Dan Rosenblum of Kensington voted for Berliner because he believes the council member has the experience necessary to handle the duties of county executive.

“It’s crucial that people with government experience win,” Rosenblum said.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jim Shea stopped by the Rockville early voting location at the Executive Office Building Thursday afternoon. Credit: Andrew Metcalf

At the Rockville early voting center, Vandad Tarvand of Potomac said he selected Elrich.

“I remember reading the [League of Women Voters’] guide and liking what he had written,” Tarvand said.

Tangerine Levy of Gaithersburg said she selected Krasnow because she’s a woman.

“I also know she was mayor of Rockville when I lived there,” Levy said. “I’m truly disgusted with male politicians and I want women to take over.”

At the Silver Spring Civic Center, Kirsten Stade of Takoma Park said she voted for Elrich after a progressive friend recommended him as a good choice.

“I’m going as progressive as I can down the ballot,” Stade said.

Meanwhile, Brenda Campbell of Silver Spring said as she left the voting center at the civic center that she voted for Blair. She said she works with veterans and had the opportunity to meet Blair at an event. She believes he has made assisting veterans part of his platform.

Virginia Bledsoe of Silver Spring said she voted for Elrich because she believes he’ll work to prevent overdevelopment, which she considers a problem in the county. She also said she supported him because “he didn’t take any corporate money.”

Many voters who declined to provide their names to Bethesda Beat said they were dismayed by the amount of paper used to make the hundreds of signs, leaflets and mailers they’ve viewed or received this election season.

A woman who voted at the Chevy Chase early voting center said she received campaign mail weighing a total of 4 pounds. “It’s just ridiculous,” she said.

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