Early Voter Turnout Soars in Cecil County but Lags Statewide Rate; 16% of County Votes Cast

November 6, 2016

Cecil County voters took advantage of eight days of early voting for the 2016 presidential, state and local election as 10,809 ballots were cast, or 16.6 percent of “active eligible” voters, according to the state Board of Elections (BOE). Republicans cast a slightly higher proportion of their votes than Democrats.

Early voting was conducted at one polling place—the county administration building in Elkton—and ended on Thursday 11/3/16, after voting began the previous Thursday. Throughout the period, voter traffic was steady, with the highest turnout—1,790 people—on the first day of voting.

Cecil County’s early turnout rate lagged behind the statewide tally of 22 percent of registered voters casting ballots ahead of the Tuesday 11/8/16 Election Day. But Cecil’s early vote was well ahead of the 2012 turnout—the last presidential election year. That early vote period was a day shorter than this year’s but 9.42 percent of then-registered local voters cast early ballots.

The hotly contested presidential race between Hillary Clinton, a Democrat, and Donald Trump, a Republican is clearly fueling voter interest in this year’s elections. Locally, the only partisan contest is for Cecil County Executive—between Alan McCarthy, a Republican, and Wayne L. Tome, Sr, a Democrat. A non-partisan race for the District 1 Board of Education seat pits incumbent William Manlove against political newcomer Kevin Emmerich. Two County Council seats are uncontested, after Democrats failed to put up any candidates against Republicans Bob Meffley (District 1) and Jackie Gregory (District 5).

Proportionately, Republicans slightly edged out Democrats in casting early ballots. State BOE statistics show that 18.3 percent of local GOP voters cast ballots early while Democratic early voters constituted 18 percent of registered party members. Independent or “unaffiliated” voters cast 1,532 ballots, or 11.1 percent of their total registrants.

The two parties were about equal in seeking absentee ballots (961 for Republicans and 957 for Democrats) while Democrats were very slightly ahead in returning marked absentee ballots by the end of last week. So far, Democrats have returned 564 absentee ballots to the local BOE while GOP voters sent in 562.

For the first time this year, state law allows on-site voter registration during the early voting period, and 164 people in Cecil County took advantage of that new provision. In addition, 92 people changed their address on voting records during the early voting period.

The local contests in the general election have not triggered much debate or controversy this year, and considering the bitterness of elections-past, that could be a welcome development. (Remember the infamous polling place nose-biting incident several years ago that, once again, made Cecil County the laughing stock of the state?)

But there has been plenty of angry rhetoric and accusations in the county in response to the presidential contest. Trump supporters have complained on social media that yard signs backing their GOP candidate have been stolen or defaced. Some Democrats have complained that they have been targeted with foul language as they sign-waved for Clinton. (One local pro-Trump group included a suggestion by one poster that they should toss “fecal material” at the Clinton sign-wavers.)

While Cecil County is expected to give a majority vote for Trump, as GOP voters did in their party’s April primary, Maryland’s overwhelmingly Democratic voter registration is expected to deliver a substantial victory for Clinton in a state that has been considered a “safe” win for her campaign. In response, some local Trump-backers have been crossing the nearby Pennsylvania border to campaign for their candidate in a state that is hotly contested in the national campaign between Trump and Clinton.

Election Day in Maryland is on Tuesday, 11/8/16, with local precinct polling places open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m.

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