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Election 2020

Early Voter Turnout Suggests Md. Incumbents in Congress Lead Challengers

Early voting at Germantown Recreation Center was busy and brisk Thursday, Oct. 29. Photo by Margie Hyslop.

By Philip Van Slooten

Maryland’s State Board of Elections’ vote totals through Wednesday show Democratic voters lead mail-in ballot counts, but at many early voting centers across the state more Republicans are casting ballots in-person.

This trend favors incumbents, including Maryland’s lone Republican in Congress, District 1 Rep. Andrew P. Harris, who faces a challenge from transgender military veteran Mia Mason (D) in a district that has long voted Republican.

District 2 Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D) is defending his seat against state Sen. Johnny Ray Salling (R-Baltimore County). Though Anne Arundel and Harford counties so far report higher Republican than Democrat in-person early vote totals, Baltimore City and Howard and Baltimore counties are delivering expected majority-Democratic turnouts, boosted by mailed-in ballots which, as of Wednesday, stood at roughly 70,000 from Democrats to 14,000 from Republicans.

High Democratic participation for in-person voting and mailed-in ballots favors Rep. John P. Sarbanes (D) over Charles Anthony (R) in District 3 and Rep. Anthony G. Brown (D) over George McDermott (R) in District 4.

In District 5, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D) is expected to fend off challenger Chris Palombi (R) with more than 100,000 of nearly 145,000 mailed-in ballots tallied coming from registered Democrats. While in-person voting tallies in Anne Arundel, Calvert and St. Mary’s counties favor Republicans, most early voters in Charles and Prince George’s counties, so far, are registered Democrats.

The large number of Democrats who have returned mail-in ballots in District 6 favors Rep. David J. Trone (D) against  a challenge from state Sen. Neil C. Parrott (R-Washington), even though in-person voting numbers are higher for Republican voters than for Democrats.

Each county in the 6th District, except population-dense and deep blue Montgomery, voted for Trump in 2016. And Republicans’ early in-person turnout exceeds Democrats’, particularly in Allegany and Garrett counties.

In Montgomery County — which includes parts of Districts 3, 6 and 8 — Democrats lead in early in-person voting and in the number of mailed-in ballots received. Also, in District 8 as a whole, Democrats have returned more mail-in ballots than have Republicans. That trend favors District 8 Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D) over challenger  Gregory Coll (R).

In District 7, where Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D) is challenged by Republican Kimberly Klacik, both high Democratic turnout and historical voting patterns favor the incumbent.

Mfume represented the district from 1987 until 1996 when he left to lead the NAACP. He won the April 7 special election over Klacik, with 73% of the vote, to finish the term of Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D), who died on Oct. 17, 2019.

But Democratic and Republican voting patterns do not tell the entire story for an unusual election year, marked by a pandemic and protests against racial violence.

Fifty-seven-year-old Baltimore County voter Eric Blitz, a member of the Libertarian Party of Maryland, told Capital News Service that no major party candidate, for representative or president, reflects his values.

This is why he voted for Libertarian Candidate Jo Jorgenson for president.

“A big issue for Libertarians is ending qualified immunity (for police),” he said. “In Maryland we are in favor of getting rid of the Law Enforcement Bill of Rights, which limits accountability.”

Similarly, Tim Willard of the Montgomery County Green Party told Capital News Service in an email that Green Party members were encouraged to write in Nancy Wallace, the Green’s candidate for District 8.

As of Wednesday, more than 900 Libertarians and roughly 230 Green Party members had cast votes in person statewide.