Primary turnout hits historic low
For all the talk of an energized electorate, and even with the new opportunity to vote early, turnout in Tuesday’s primaries was the lowest in for a gubernatorial election year in Maryland going back at least to 1982, the earliest year for which records were available.
Of Maryland’s 3,167,846 eligible voters, 761,413 cast ballots in the primaries, for a turnout of 24.04 percent, according to unofficial counts released Thursday by the State Board of Elections. The numbers do not yet include provisional or absentee ballots, but judging from previous elections, these are unlikely to be enough to push the total over the state’s previous low of 28.64 percent in in 1998.
This year, 2.44 percent of the electorate took advantage of early voting, offered for six days at central locations in each county; 21.6 percent voted on Tuesday, the traditional primary day, when local polling places were open.
In spite of a competitive Democratic primary for state's attorney, Baltimore saw a lower-than-average turnout of 21.49 percent. Baltimore County, venue for a comeptitive race for county executive, had a turnout of 29.45 percent.
Two of Maryland's least populous counties, meanwhile, distinguished themselves in electoral enthusiasm: Garrett County led the state with 39.59 percent turnout, including 35.09 percent on Tuesday. Talbot county led in early voting participation with 6.78 percent.
Statewide turnout in 2006, the last gubernatorial election, was 29.6 percent. That might have been driven in part by a competitive Democratic primary race between Benjamin L. Cardin and Kweisi Mfume for the open Senate seat vacated that year by retiring Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes.