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Early voting off to slow start in Montgomery, Pr. George's

Washington Post Editors

Maryland's experiment with early voting started with a trickle in Montgomery County on Friday.

By 1 p.m., 124 of the county's voters had cast ballots at the Silver Spring civic building, one of five early-voting locations in Montgomery. The sites will be open every day through Thursday, except Sunday. Hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

State and local candidates are trying to capture the attention of busy voters, and those who came out Friday were among the most committed.

Nancy Gaynor, a retired sales manager from Bethesda, will be in Laguna Beach seeing her son on the day of the Sept. 14 primary.

"I get back between 4 and 5, but you can't count on that," Gaynor said. The registered Democrat said she split her local ballot between current members of the county council and newcomers. "I'm not at all anti-incumbent. I choose who I think is doing a good job."

Montgomery electoral board member Nancy Dacek said officials are hoping for a bigger day Saturday. The scant turnout has an upside, though: "You can walk in and you're done in three minutes and you're out," she said. "If you don't vote, don't tell us you didn't like the people who were elected."

A list of early voting sites can be found here.

In Prince George's County, the first day of early voting at the Wayne K. Curry Sports and Learning Center was also a bit slow, with voters outnumbered by politicians and their surrogates campaigning on the road leading to the center on Sheriff Road. By noon, 180 seniors and others had cast ballots.

Democrats will select new leadership for the county. Because of term limits, they will chose a new county executive to succeed Jack B. Johnson, at least five new members on the county council as well as a new sheriff and a new top prosecutor.

Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) and first lady Katie O'Malley took a break Friday afternoon from moving their daughter, Tara, to college at Loyola University to cast their ballots at a North Baltimore polling station.

The governor and his wife greeted a handful of supporters outside the building, then checked in and voted using touch-screen ballot machines, with a bank of television cameras trained on the governor while he made his selections.

"It was easy, and it was very quick," O'Malley said after spending about three minutes voting. "I want to encourage everybody to take advantage of this."

O'Malley refrained from using his time in front of the cameras to continue the message pushed this week by his campaign staff -- that he supports early voting, while former governor Robert L. Ehrlich (R) opposes it.

That sentiment was clear in a campaign statement Thursday announcing O'Malley's and Lieutenant Gov. Anthony G. Brown's plans to vote Friday.

"It's shameful that Bob Ehrlich opposed common-sense efforts to make it easier to vote," Brown said in the statement.

O'Malley faces no serious opposition for the Democratic nomination, but asked whether early voting changes the calculus for campaigning in the state, he said: "In every campaign we gear up until decision day. That day is now a window of days that will begin today and continue," he said. "I suppose it sort of frontloads some things."

Early voting in Prince George's and Montgomery runs through Sept. 9, though early voting centers will be closed Sunday.

This post has been updated since it was first published.

By Michael Laris, Hamil R. Harris and Aaron C. Davis  |  September 3, 2010; 3:42 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Elections  
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