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Maryland voters return to polls for early voting

Thursday - 11/1/2012, 10:50am  ET

By BRIAN WITTE
Associated Press

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Maryland voters returned to the polls Wednesday after early voting was canceled the previous two days due to superstorm Sandy.

For some voters, it was their second or third trip, because they decided to skip long lines on Saturday and Sunday as voters filled up polling places to cast their ballots ahead of the storm.

Sandy has forced a number of changes to election plans this week. Rallies related to ballot questions such as expanded gambling were cancelled, and two planned U.S. Senate debates were scrapped, meaning candidates will not have a televised debate this year because of the storm.

Many voters have faced long lines on each of the three early-voting days held so far. In the Washington, D.C., suburb of Bowie, the line wound around a library and streamed out into a parking lot filled with cars. Joseph Green, a 56-year-old Bowie resident, said the line reminded him of a long wait to get on a popular ride at an amusement park.

Green, who said he had tried to vote on Saturday and Sunday but couldn't find a parking spot, said politics in general motivated him to wait more than an hour on Wednesday to vote for President Barack Obama.

"I think we're going in the right direction," Green said. "I don't think change would probably do the country any good right now, so that motivated me to come out and vote."

Mary Wyatt, of Annapolis, said after voting on Wednesday that she was relieved early voting was back on track, because she is traveling for work on Election Day.

"I was a little concerned," Wyatt, 60, said. "I just didn't want to leave it until the last day."

To make up for the two days of early voting washed out by the storm, Maryland has added Friday as an early-voting day. Early voting had been scheduled initially to run from Saturday through Thursday. Hours also have been added, so that all but one hour of early voting time will be restored. Hours are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Bob Ray, a Democratic elections judge at the Boys and Girls Club of Annapolis, said voters crowded the polls in Anne Arundel County on Saturday and Sunday. He said many voters said they wanted to vote ahead of the storm.

"What drove everybody out early on Saturday and Sunday was the hurricane," Ray said.

In Wicomico County on the Eastern Shore, Don Gatton said he tried to vote on Saturday in Salisbury for the first day of early voting, but he found the line to be too long.

"After that, the storm got us," said Gatton, a Democrat who said he voted a strict Republican ticket this time.

Gov. Martin O'Malley said he expected long lines to continue.

"Thanks to a lot of really Herculean work all across our state, we have reopened all of the 46 early voting places," said the Democratic governor, who is not on the ballot this year. "And in some places, that required a lot of snow plowing and a lot of emergency generators."

As of 4 p.m., 192,721 Maryland residents had voted early, according to the Maryland State Board of Elections. That's more than double the 95,225 people who voted in the first three days of early voting in the 2010 general election, which was not a presidential election year.

Early voting also resumed in the District of Columbia on Wednesday after being shut down for two days. Voters said they weren't especially inconvenienced by the storm. Robin Armstrong, 52, and her daughter Ivy, 26, said they had planned to vote Monday, but it wasn't a problem to go Wednesday instead.

"We were definitely going to vote early anyway," Ivy Armstrong said. "I'm going to be out of town. Mom just avoids the lines."

In Maryland's Senate race, two debates were canceled this week, and there are no plans to reschedule them. Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin greeted voters in a long line at the Bowie Library. Republican challenger Dan Bongino planned to greet voters at the New Carrollton Metro stop in Prince George's County. Independent candidate Rob Sobhani said he will hold a news conference in front of the U.S. Capitol on Thursday to make a closing statement in his campaign. The candidates held a radio debate last week on Larry Young's WOLB-AM radio show.

U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, the 10-term Republican facing a tough reelection race against Democrat John Delaney in a district redrawn by the Democratic- controlled Legislature, announced he was canceling political events through Wednesday due to the storm.

___

Associated Press Writers Jessica Gresko in Salisbury, Md. and Ben Nuckols in Washington contributed to this report.


(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)