Maryland voters will finally have a chance to choose candidates running for various state and county offices and ballot questions, starting Thursday with the state’s early voting period.
The gubernatorial race between Republican incumbent Larry Hogan and Democratic nominee Ben Jealous received the most attention.
History will be made if either wins. Hogan would be the first Republican governor to be re-elected in more than 60 years, while Jealous, who defeated eight challengers in the June 26 primary, would become the state’s first Black governor.
Political science professor Todd Eberly said early voting figures won’t fully explain who will have the edge. However, he said Jealous needs a huge turnout in the Democratic stronghold of Prince George’s County. The majority-Black jurisdiction has 460,300 registered Democrats, the highest total in the state.
“I think you need to see incredibly strong numbers in P.G. County,” said Eberly, who teaches at St. Mary’s College in St. Mary’s. “The turnout in P.G. County wasn’t all that impressive four years ago, so you would want to see some indication that those numbers are going to be up.”
In 2014, Hogan received about 32,600 votes, or nearly 15 percent, in Prince George’s when he ran against Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Maryland) who garnered 184,950 votes, or 84 percent.
However, only 219,572 ballots were cast in the county for the gubernatorial contest.
The county had 544,677 registered voters four years ago. As of Oct. 18, approximately 584,330 are registered to vote, a 7 percent increase.
That’s one reason why the state Democratic Party housed its state coordinated campaign headquarters in Largo.
Although registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 10 to 1 in Prince George’s and 2 to1 statewide, most polls show Hogan with a double-digit lead.
A Gonzales Research & Media Service poll released earlier this month show 67 percent of Democrats believe Hogan “is doing a good job in Annapolis.”
Among the 806 voters surveyed, 72 percent of Democrats in Prince George’s favored Jealous compared to 26 percent for Hogan.
“If P.G. County doesn’t show any greater improvement relative to the other counties, then to me that is going to suggest that everything is going to be up or down in a similar fashion across the state,” Eberly said.
The Gonzales poll showed Hogan and Jealous tied at 63 percent in Montgomery County, where the Hogan campaign scheduled a get-out-the-vote rally Tuesday, Oct. 23 in Gaithersburg.
Jealous garnered 34 percent of support in Baltimore City versus 27 percent for Hogan, according to the poll.
Hogan received 22 percent of the vote in Baltimore four years ago. Eberly said if Hogan exceeds that figure this year, “that’s a nightmare scenario for Jealous.”
“He’s spent quite a bit of time in the city, something that a Democratic candidate normally shouldn’t have to do,” Eberly said. “For Democrats, there are three [jurisdictions] that are crucial to them: P.G. County, Montgomery and Baltimore City.”
Please Answer the Questions
Delegate Jazz Lewis (D-District 24) of Glenarden helped lead a school board candidate’s forum Saturday, Oct. 20 and urged those in attendance to vote.
While reviewing the ballot, he said reminded those about two state referendum questions that required much-needed answers.
The first labeled “Question 1” asks voters whether they’re for or against a constitutional amendment to use revenue from the state’s six casinos to supplement public education. According to a sample ballot, the amounts would spread this way:
• $125 million would be allocated in fiscal year 2020.
• $250 million in fiscal year 2012.
• $375 million in fiscal year 2022.
• 100 percent of commercial gaming revenues in fiscal year 2023 and beyond.
The second question asks if voters approve same-day voter registration at a polling precinct. Currently, it ends one day before Election Day.
Prince George’s voters will have 11 other questions to review, including five charter referendums to borrow nearly $400 million on construction and renovation projects for public works and transportation, library system, public safety, community college and county buildings.
Another question focuses on a county council member’s residency. An at-large member and one of the nine who represent a district must “have been a qualified voter of Prince George’s County for at least one year immediately preceding his or her primary election.”
The remaining questions to amend the county’s charter will address discrimination against county personnel and contractors; whether to designate county council positions as full-time to determine compensation; appointing a county auditor to a five-year term; limiting temporary fills of county personnel vacancies to a year or less; and establishing a charter review commission.
The more than 4,000 election judges in Prince George’s plan to work up to 15 hours a day to check in and assists voters during early voting and Election Day on Nov. 6.
Last year, the state Board of Elections approved the county opening two additional early-voting sites, Kentland Community Center in Landover and VFW Post 8950 in Lanham. The other nine precincts are open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Nov. 1.
Alisha Alexander, elections administrator for the county, said the only change in this year’s election will be paper ballots. The state law changed two years ago to eliminate the touch-screen machines used since November 2000.
“The residents of Prince George’s County do not know what goes on behind the scenes,” Alexander said. “We have to train all those election judges. We register voters. We process absentee and provisional ballots. Those are many of the things we do. It takes 12 to 14 months to prepare for an election.”
For a list of early voting sites, go to princegeorgescountymd.gov.