Early Voting Turnout Lags in Montgomery County Ahead of Maryland Primary

Montgomery County, Maryland, saw low voter turnout during its 8-day early voting period for the 2024 primary election, with only 20,360 voters casting ballots out of 680,000 eligible registered voters. The county's 14 early voting centers were open from May 2 to May 9, with the highest volume on the last day with 4,140 voters casting ballots.

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Nitish Verma
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Early Voting Turnout Lags in Montgomery County Ahead of Maryland Primary

Early Voting Turnout Lags in Montgomery County Ahead of Maryland Primary

Montgomery County, Maryland, has experienced lower voter turnout during its 8-day early voting period for the 2024 primary election compared to the 2022 gubernatorial primary. According to data from the Maryland State Board of Elections and local elections officials, only 20,360 voters out of 680,000 eligible registered voters cast their ballots during the early voting period, which concluded ahead of the official election day on May 14.

Why this matters: The low voter turnout in Montgomery County may indicate a broader trend of disengagement among voters in the 2024 primary election, which could have significant implications for the outcome of key races. Additionally, the lack of enthusiasm among voters could signal a more apathetic electorate, potentially leading to a shift in political power dynamics.

Montgomery County Board of Elections President David Naimon noted the difference in voter turnout between the two elections, stating, Naimon attributed the higher turnout in 2022 to the "hotly contested gubernatorial race" during that election.

The 14 early voting centers in Montgomery County were open from May 2 to May 9, operating from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day. The last day of early voting, May 9, saw the highest volume with 4,140 voters casting ballots. Voting sites at the Silver Spring Civic Building, the Wheaton Library and Community Recreation Center, the Potomac Community Recreation Center, and the Jane E. Lawton Community Recreation Center in Chevy Chase experienced the highest voter traffic throughout the week.

The 2024 primary election in Maryland features several significant races, including a competitive U.S. Senate race to succeed retiring Sen. Ben Cardin, with 10 Democratic candidates and 5 Republican candidates vying for the seat. Other key races on the ballot include U.S. House of Representatives seats, Montgomery County Board of Education positions, and judgeships for Montgomery County Circuit Court.

Despite the high-profile races, analysts predict overall voter turnout will likely lag behind other presidential election years. University of Baltimore professor John Willis explained,"People vote for the top of the ticket. When there is no presidential race at the top, turnout goes down precipitously. "With President Joe Biden as the presumed Democratic nominee and former President Donald Trump as the anticipated Republican pick, the chief executive nominees are all but decided.

While early voting turnout has been slow, mail-in voting remains a popular choice among Maryland voters. As of May 9, local election boards across the state had received 275,529 mail-in ballots out of the 637,000 requested. Maryland's election administrator Jared DeMarinis noted, "Early voting may be slow this year, but the state is on pace to see record use of mail-in ballots." However, the sluggish return of mail-in ballots could result in slower election results, with only 120,000 mail-in ballots counted or canvassed so far.

As Montgomery County and the state of Maryland head into the official primary election day on May 14, it remains to be seen whether voter turnout will surpass the early voting numbers. With competitive races down the ballot and a significant number of mail-in ballots yet to be returned, the 2024 Maryland primary is still unfolding. Election officials and campaigns alike will be closely monitoring voter participation and results in the coming days.