UPPER MARLBORO, Md. — Even though more than 1.6 million Marylanders have requested mail-in ballots due to COVID-19 concerns, the state still broke records on the first day of early voting, with more than 161,000 ballots cast.
Several polling places reported voters lining up before dawn before voting centers had even opened, and many waited hours in line to cast their vote. Despite the long lines, voters expressed enthusiasm for the in-person option, citing an apparent distrust in the mail-in ballot system.
"I didn't trust the mail with all the problems we've had," one man said. "And when I was in the service, I was overseas I heard some of our ballots never made it here, so I decided to just come and do it myself.”
"I just don't trust elections here lately," another woman said. "Everybody's crooked or has somebody crooked in their corner and I want my vote to be counted."
A lot of Prince George's County voters reported feeling anxious that election day itself could be a mess, with just 41 polling places available in the county where normally there are nearly 300. As a result, early voting is in high demand. At one point, the chief election judge at the Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro reported a two hour maximum wait time.
But at the Civic Building in Silver Spring, the average wait time throughout the day was 10 minutes, with more than 1,500 ballots being cast and 32 voters taking advantage of same-day registration.
Montgomery County is also the only locality in the state that will provide a text-based service for voters to check wait times at their voting center, according to Gilberto Zelaya with the Montgomery County Board of Elections. Voters can text "EV (space) (zip code)" to 77788 and receive a text with the three closest early voting locations and the estimated wait time at each. The wait time information will refresh every 15-20 minutes.
Early voting will continue daily from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. until Nov. 2. According to the State BOE, voters can cast their ballots at any early voting site within their county.
Early voting begins in Maryland
According to the Maryland Board of Elections, there are approximately 683,000 active registered voters in Montgomery County and about 74,000 eligible voters have yet to register.
Anyone who missed the voter registration deadline can still register at a voting center the same day, according to the BOE. The board's rules say those registering are required to provide proof of residence by bringing one of the following:
- Driver's license
- ID or change of address card
- Bank statement
- Utility bill
Another government document that includes a name and new address
The state requires voters to wear a mask and stand at least six feet apart while waiting in line.
Correction: An earlier version of this story erroneously reporter 16 million Marylanders having requested mail-in ballots, instead of 1.6 million.