The polls in Frederick County were crowded at the start of early voting on Thursday, but it was not enough to exceed the Day 1 early-voting turnout from the presidential election in 2016.
On Thursday, 3,256 people voted in Frederick County. In 2016, 4,667 people voted on the first day of early voting.
Voting this year was higher than the last gubernatorial election in 2014, when 1,574 people voted.
John Willis, who is with the University of Baltimore’s School of Public and International Affairs, said closer races tend to increase turnout.
“What tends to influence [early voting] is the competitiveness of the race,” Willis said. “Meaning, is it perceived by the voters if there is decided competition or not?”
Willis said the county executive and third legislative district in Frederick County could be examples of such races.
Both Willis and Richard Vatz, a professor of political communication at Towson University, said voter turnout — including early voting — is usually higher in presidential years.
“One of the critical questions is how provoked is the voting public,” Vatz said of voter turnout. “That makes this an interesting year, people aren’t provoked as much on local issues, but they’re provoked by the conservative and liberal ideas.”
Frederick County Election Director Stuart Harvey said turnout was still steady at the Frederick Senior Center on Friday.
By 2 p.m., 1,588 people had voted on Friday at the county’s four polling places, according to Harvey. At around the same time Thursday, 1,563 people had cast their ballot.
Harvey said many people voting early had made up their minds and wanted to make sure their ballot was cast.
“When the voters go into the voting location, they’re holding that specimen ballot,” Harvey said. “It’s a long ballot, they have that information, they’re taking that into that location and they’re voting on what they’ve decided on.”
Regarding the election two years ago, Harvey noted that voters had to pick a new president, which could have also increased turnout.
Vatz and Willis both said that important issues can also increase early voter turnout, especially if they concern the entire state. Willis said that voter habit may also be changing.
“People are adapting, too. It’s kind of ironic because at many polls [in Baltimore] there were 200 or more people in line when polls opened,” Willis said. “Typically on Election Day, you won’t see that in your precinct.”
This year’s Frederick County ballot is also a long one: It contains two pages full of local, state and federal races, along with four ballot questions asking for a yes-or-no vote.
Donald F. Norris, professor emeritus at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, doesn’t believe ballot length influences early voting turnout. He does, however, believe that candidates can play a role.
“Mobilization is another factor ... meaning, the extent to where candidates get their boots on the ground and get people out to vote,” Norris said, adding this happens through door knocking and distributing election literature.