“The People’s Republic of Takoma Park,” the city of 17,000 in the southeast corner of Montgomery County, is home to two Democratic candidates for governor (a third lives a few hundred yards from the city line) and two of the three leading Democratic candidates for county executive.
So what was the mood of this plugged-in and dedicated electorate Tuesday morning? Good luck finding many voters.
“There are too many people here,” Del. Jheanelle Wilkins (D-Montgomery) said as she left the polling place at Takoma Park Elementary School to find more hands to shake at other venues. “Well, not people. Just candidates and volunteers.”
“Hey John, an actual voter!” a campaign aide shouted to a Democratic candidate for governor, former Obama administration Education Secretary John King, who lives just outside Takoma Park.
“Hi, John King, running for governor,” he said, spinning around to greet the voter.
“Oh, thank you,” the woman replied.
Moments later, King’s half dozen volunteers serenaded another voter with “Happy Birthday!” (one of the volunteers knew her).
“I would have showered if I had known,” the voter, who identified herself as Chris, joked. After coming out of the polling place, she said she voted for King not because of the birthday greetings but because she was impressed with his stance on minimizing the presence of school resource officers in public schools.
King, who was hitting multiple polling places in the state, had started his morning nearby, voting at East Silver Spring Elementary School with one of his teenaged daughters, who was casting her ballot for the first time.
“It’s very moving when you think that three generations ago my ancestors were enslaved just a few miles from here in Gaithersburg and now I’m on the ballot as a candidate for governor,” he said.
The race to replace popular two-term Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R), who is term-limited, is the marquee contest on Tuesday’s ballot, but voters are also selecting nominees for all statewide offices — governor, comptroller, attorney general and U.S. Senate — along with nominees for all eight U.S. House seats, all 188 seats in the General Assembly, plus hundreds more at the county level.
The other Democratic candidates for governor are Jon Baron, Peter Franchot, Doug Gansler, Ralph Jaffe, Ashwani Jain, Wes Moore, Tom Perez and Jerome Segal.
The Maryland primary was originally scheduled for June 28 but was delayed by three weeks to account for litigation over the state’s congressional and legislative redistricting plans.
Also in Takoma Park on Tuesday morning, Montgomery County Councilmember Hans Riemer (D), who is running for county executive, was greeting the few voters who came by. He noted that both of his sons had attended Takoma Park Elementary School and that one of his sons was just up the hill at Takoma Park Middle School, handing out campaign literature with his buddies.
“In the past couple of weeks, the number of people coming up to me saying they’re voting for me has been really amazing,” Riemer said. “To me, it feels like the numbers are there” to win.
Sergio Obadia, a campaign volunteer with King, had an optimistic view for why there were so few voters at the polls.
“Everybody has voted already,” he said, pointing out that his neighbors in the Sligo Park Hills neighborhood of Silver Spring, just adjacent to Takoma Park, were more engaged in this election than any he could remember. “Everybody wanted to vote,” he added, recalling that one neighbor was recently chided at a community happy hour when he said he wasn’t planning to go to the polls.
Obadia said his neighbors were motivated in part because they wanted to support younger leaders.
“Don’t you want to see some youth?” the native of Venezuela said. “Do all the politicians have to be 70?”
Down the hill at Piney Branch Elementary School, another Takoma Park-based candidate, Franchot, who is 74, said he was confident about his campaign for governor but wasn’t exactly sure when the results would be finalized.
“The main bulk of the votes are going to come in by mail,” he said.
More than half-a-million mail-in ballots have been requested by voters this election, and those ballots can be dropped off at dropboxes throughout the state until 8 p.m.
As of Monday, more than 213,000 mail ballots — representing about 5.7% of all eligible active voters — had been returned across the state. None of those ballots will be counted until Thursday, meaning the winner of many races throughout the state will be unclear for days or even weeks.
More than 172,000 people voted during the state’s early voting period last week, about 4.56% of all voters. Those will be among the first results to be reported Tuesday night after polls close at 8 p.m.
In-person voting turnout appeared sluggish throughout the state Tuesday, with few polling places reporting long lines.
Unlike during early voting, the state does not release midday turnout totals on Election Day.
Some counties have released figures.
In Baltimore, about 18,000 people, or 4.5% of eligible voters, had voted in person by 3 p.m., Emily Sullivan, a reporter at Baltimore Banner, tweeted.
In Prince George’s County, more than 24,267 people, or 4.77% of eligible voters, had cast ballots by 3 p.m., according to the county board of elections.
Maryland’s most populous county, Montgomery, didn’t have any voter turnout numbers available as of 5 p.m.
Early in the day, Everyone Votes Maryland, a coalition of organizations focused on voting access, reported that multiple polling places in the city of Baltimore and Prince George’s County did not open on time.
The Baltimore Sun reported that most of the late openings were believed to be limited to 15 to 20 minutes.
Reasons for the late openings included power outages, a shortage of election workers and, in one case in Prince George’s County, a gas leak that was fixed before the polling place resumed operations, said Maryland’s Deputy Elections Administrator Nikki Charlson.
“Otherwise, it’s been a pretty quiet day,” she said.
None of the delays were expected to result in keeping polls open beyond 8 p.m.
At the Mid-County Community Recreation Center in Montgomery County, campaign volunteers described a “slow, but steady” stream of voters throughout the day. These volunteers lined outside the right side of the recreation center, greeting voters as they entered and exited.
Volunteers — mostly for Montgomery County candidates — congregated in the few spots of shade along the path to the building, some armed with umbrellas. Many said most of the people they spoke to had already made up their minds.
Michael Betteridge said he voted for Dan Cox for governor and Michael Peroutka for attorney general because they’re “constitutionalists.”
“We are not following the constitution of Maryland and we haven’t been for many, many, many years.” Betteridge said. “I’m voting for those people to return sane government.”
Democratic voters like Brian Chisolm and Heidi Hotz cast their ballots based on issues such as reproductive rights, climate change and police accountability.
“When I saw people not afraid to say abortion is health care and reproductive rights are health care I leaned towards them,” said Hotz, who voted for Perez.
At polling places in Prince George’s County, candidates and volunteers vastly outnumbered voters, and that dynamic made for many humorous moments.
Because no one wanted to get crowded out, or miss their chance to make a pitch, the throng of campaign workers would surround voters as they arrived, thrusting lit into their hands and squeezing their pitch down to its bare essentials.
“Oh my god, oh my God! Am I the only voter?,” asked Ben Simson good-naturedly.
A late afternoon voter at Hyattsville Elementary School, Simson told a reporter after voting he was not put off by the enthusiastic campaign workers he encountered. “I love seeing everyone out there trying to support their candidate,” he said.
At Surratsville High School in Clinton, a polling site serving two precincts, voters were able to speak with both of the frontrunners in the race for the open Fourth Congressional District seat, former Rep. Donna Edwards (D) and former Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Glenn Ivey (D).
The pair spent a good chunk of the day campaigning within feet of each other, not quite making simultaneous pitches, but close.
“You two know each other,” a reporter observed awkwardly.
“Not as well as I thought,” replied Edwards, who unsuccessfully asked Ivey to disavow a multi-million dollar outside ad campaign waged on his behalf by a pro-Israel group. (During her first stint in congress, between 2008 and 2016, Ivey served as Edwards’ campaign treasurer.)
She introduced herself to voters as “Congresswoman Donna Edwards” and played up the absence of women in Maryland’s congressional delegation. Ivey noted that he was the county’s top prosecutor for eight years and won the endorsement of the Washington Post.
Working alongside the pair were various other candidates and poll workers, including Del. Jay Walker (D-Prince George’s), a former NFL quarterback who was stoked by Washington Nationals centerfielder Juan Soto’s performance in the Homerun Derby, and Melanie Miller, daughter of the late state Senate President Mike Miller (D), whose family has had a presence in Southern Prince George’s for hundreds of years.
Voter Nicole Newman said it was “very exciting” to see so many workers, tents and signs at the polling place. “There wasn’t a lot of people out here but just enough that it made me feel like I’m at the right place, at the right time, and I’m doing the right thing.”
“I wouldn’t miss this,” said voter Vivian Walls. “It’s important that we get out and vote. We just can’t sit back and say ‘they’ll vote for ‘em.’ No. We got to get out here and vote for people who are going to do something good for us.”
Continue reading Maryland Matters throughout Election Day for the latest updates on election results.