Election 2020

Election 2020

Voter turnout in Frederick County finished higher than the 2016 presidential general election, but not as much as the prior two election cycles in 2012 and 2008.

Election Director Stuart Harvey and the county’s Board of Elections certified local election results at a meeting Friday. He said in a brief interview Friday afternoon that 146,427 out of 187,063 registered voters cast a ballot in the 2020 election—a turnout of 78.28 percent.

Harvey told the board his office had received 62,971 mail-in ballots, and 3,775 provisional ballots, the remaining being early voting and Election Day ballots.

Provisional ballots would be used if a voter received a mail-in ballot but decided to vote in-person, or if election workers needed to prove the registration status legitimacy of a voter during early voting or Election Day.

The overall turnout was impressive, even if it didn’t hit the 80-85 percent range originally predicted, Harvey said. It’s possible that didn’t happen because of the increase in coronavirus cases during the past month, he added.

“It’s possible that some people that decided not to vote because they were ill or worried about exposing other people,” Harvey said.

Still, other political science academics in the state said the state’s turnout this election was high, including in Frederick County.

Todd Eberly, a political science professor at Saint Mary’s College of Maryland, was one of them. He noted that the country saw its largest turnout percentage-wise in more than a century, and that Maryland — despite being a Democratic stronghold — contributed to that.

Part of that was because of the political climate and polarization between Democrats and Republicans in 2020, Eberly said.

“It’s clear the level of division that we are facing right now really motivated people to go to the polls,” Eberly said.

John Willis, executive in residence with the University of Baltimore’s School of Public and International Affairs, also commended Frederick County and Maryland for high voter turnout.

He pointed to the county’s employees who work with federal government as one reason turnout could have been high.

“I think it’s probably directed to the fact a significant number of Frederick countians deal with the federal government ... they know first-hand the consequences of a dysfunctional government,” Willis said.

“We’re not a battleground state and we don’t have the year of a Senate race or any other congressional statewide race that was competitive … you didn’t have any local competition to push the margins,” he added.

Congressmen David Trone (D-Md.) and Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) of Districts 6 and 8 cruised to re-election. Three Board of Education seats were up for grabs, and the two incumbents — Rae Gallagher and Lois Jarman — were voted out.

Richard Vatz, a professor of political communication at Towson University, agreed with Eberly and Willis that the 2020 general election saw high turnout.

The coronavirus pandemic might have limited turnout from being higher, but polarization remains a factor, Vatz said.

“The Trump phenomenon accounts for most of the anger on both sides,” Vatz said. “The Trump people are tremendously motivated to vote for him, and anti-Trump people are motivated to vote against him ... it’s just changed the entire political and rhetorical landscape of the country.”

Follow Steve Bohnel on Twitter: @Steve_Bohnel

Steve Bohnel is the county government reporter for the Frederick News-Post. He can be reached at sbohnel@newspost.com. He graduated from Temple University, with a journalism degree in May 2017, and is a die-hard Everton F.C. fan.

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