'I'd wait as long as it took': Maryland voters turn out in extraordinary election year
Three generations of Lamont Potter Sr.'s family went to the polls together in Crisfield.
Skylar McDonough waited 45 minutes at a high school in Hagerstown to cast her first-ever vote.
Sebastian Bell, just 6 years old, broke out into a little dance after accompanying his mother to vote in Baltimore.
Across Maryland, voters were determined and excited to cast their ballots on this historic Election Day.
They braved a pandemic, brisk weather and sometimes long lines to exercise their right to vote.
Sebastian's mom, Shillá Bell, said she wanted to maintain the tradition of voting on Election Day — especially now, in a year when so much has changed.
"This world is crazy now, so I just wanted to do something that's just normal," she said. She and her son wore masks as they navigated a short line at the Edmondson High School vote center in west Baltimore.
In Crisfield, Potter bragged that three generations of his family were voting this year, including his 20-year-old daughter for the first time.
"We try to instill the importance of voting because no vote, no voice," Potter said.
Though long lines did form at some vote centers across Maryland, voters were mostly able to move quickly through the process in the morning and early afternoon.
Many didn't seem to mind the wait, anyway.
In Hagerstown, Justin Stream was upbeat after waiting 40 minutes.
“I feel like it’s worth it,” he said. “I’d wait as long as it took. It’s a big thing to vote. It’s important to vote. It’s your right to vote.
“I hope everyone gets out and makes the right decision, whatever they feel is best. We’ll see what the outcome is.”
Vote centers in Wicomico, Worcester and Somerset counties on the Eastern Shore seemed to largely avoid long lines Tuesday.
Patti Jackson, the Worcester County election director, said most voters had been able to get through lines in 20 to 30 minutes.
"We had a heavy turnout for early voting, so I thought maybe Election Day would be not quite so busy, but people are still turning out, which is wonderful," Jackson said.
"I think that it's a contentious election because everyone is very passionate about the candidate that they want to win," she said. "I think everyone understands the importance of getting out and voting and making their voice heard."
The wait for results
As of 3:30 p.m., 311,355 people had voted statewide. That's in addition to the more than 1.3 million people who returned mail-in ballots before Election Day and nearly 1 million people who voted in person during a record-breaking eight days of early voting.
State election officials warned that final results could take a long time.
Tuesday night, Marylanders should expect to see unofficial vote totals that include early voting, Election Day voting and some mail-in voting.
Additional mail-in votes still need to be counted, though, and that process is on hold until Thursday, said Nikki Charlson, the deputy administrator of the State Board of Elections.
Election workers must first wrap up Election Day operations, handle provisional ballots, and complete other tasks before getting back to the mail-in ballot counting, she said.
Processing the glut of mail-in ballots could continue until at least Nov. 13. Maryland officials, including Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and many Democratic lawmakers, encouraged voters to use mail-in options amid the coronavirus pandemic.
'My vote's definitely going to be counted'
Some voters have expressed concerns about voting by mail, especially as reports of mail delivery delays proliferated this election season.
The Maryland State Board of Elections last week encouraged voters to use drop boxes, instead of the mail, to ensure their mail-in ballots were returned in time.
In Baltimore, 71-year-old Marcus Hogg said he chose to vote in person because he wanted to visit his alma mater, Patterson High School, which was being used as a vote center.
But he also wanted to be sure his vote was counted.
"I feel more comfortable that my vote's definitely going to be counted," Hogg said.
Hogg said he supports President Donald Trump because he is concerned about national security, policing and other issues.
"If the right person doesn't win, I'm concerned about my Second Amendment rights," Hogg said. "I'm concerned about the Supreme Court being packed."
In Hagerstown, Jonathan Laye was adamant about the importance of Tuesday’s vote.
“It’s absolutely essential to our country that we stay out of socialism and have four more years of a prosperous economy,” he said.
Other voters were just as adamant about their support for Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden or just a desire to see change.
Lakeisha Branyon, a Wicomico County elementary school educator, wore a Biden/Harris T-shirt to vote Tuesday at about 9 a.m. at the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center.
"A change is needed in the United States," she said. "Biden is from the Shore, he's a family man and he's for the working class citizens. I'm all about education, and so is he."
Jamie Brown, a UMES student who voted in Somerset County on Tuesday, said she believes young voters are paying more attention to politics and want to things to change.
"I feel as though as a young person, we think that our votes don't matter because we're not really as into the political scene as much as we need to be." Brown said. "But I feel like with everything going on and how much everyone wants the system to change, that they're going to come out more and hopefully vote more."
Madeleine O'Neill covers the Maryland State House for the USA Today Network. She can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @maddioneill.
Matthew Prensky, Julia Rentsch, Kaisha Young and Joyce F. Nowell contributed reporting from around the state.