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Olympic figure skater Kimmie Meissner, a Bel Air native, is expected to cast Harford County’s first early vote.

“I think she represents young people and she’s a good citizen that has done well for our county,” Board of Elections Director Jim Massey said Monday.

Beginning this week, Harford County residents will, for the first time, be able to participate in early voting.

Early voting for the Sept. 14 primary election will be available Friday through Sept. 9 from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. at the Bel Air library, excluding Sunday, Sept. 4. The early voting polling place will be open on Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 6.

“Our county has a lot of busy voters that commute to Baltimore, Washington [D.C.] and even Philly,” Massey said. “Many of them leave prior to 7 [a.m.] and don’t get back until 8 [p.m.]. They vote absentee or sometimes they don’t vote at all.”

“They have the opportunity to vote on the weekend or any day they have available,” Massey said.

Massey’s office has been preparing for early voting since last year and was still busy getting ready at the beginning of the week.

“We’ll be taking the equipment over to the Bel Air library and setting it up in the meeting room,” Massey said. “We have to make sure it’s very secure.”

Specimen ballots will be mailed to all eligible voters this week.

“There are 39 different ballot styles,” Massey said. “That’s a lot because we have different legislative and congressional and councilmanic. We had to figure out all the different styles and make sure they correspond to where people live.”

Sample ballots are also available online at www.harfordvotes.info.

“Voters should be able to use the specimen ballot to make they’re decision,” Massey said. “It gets confusing with all the signs. Sometimes the signs are not in the district the people are representing. Perhaps this will make it more understandable.”

The Town of Bel Air and the library have designated parking spaces for voters, according to Massey.

“The town will permit voters to park in a lot where they usually have to have a permit,” Massey said. “It will be more convenient for them.”

For non-drivers, Massey said the board of elections has made arrangements with Harford Transit to have a bus stop at the Bel Air library during early voting.

There will be a full contingent of people and election judges running the early voting process, similar to Election Day.

“We had to schedule judges for each of the six days and make sure we have everything,” Massey said of the preparations. “One of the aspects of early voting is our poll books will be networked to the state board of elections.”

The networking process is necessary to make sure no one votes twice.

“Normally, on Election Day, the poll books don’t need to be networked,” Massey said. “Because of early voting, we want to make sure we keep track and update it in real time so we can check if someone voted already in another part of the state.”

A full contingent requires 12 people, including two chief judges, a provisional judge, poll book judges, unit judges and greeters, according to Massey.

There will be 25 units available for voters during early voting in case there is a large turnout.

Harford has 148,368 registered voters, which is less than the 150,000 necessary to qualify for additional polling places for early voting.

Massey said he is expecting about 3,000 people, or 10 percent of the overall primary election turnout to participate in early voting.

“The primary for the gubernatorial year is usually fairly low, below 30 percent,” Massey said. “We think we may have 500 voters a day, maybe 3,000.”

As early voting catches on, Massey said he thinks the figure will double by the time the general election comes in November.

“This sort of primary makes early voting around Labor Day weekend a little bit hard,” Massey said. “People aren’t thinking about elections at this point.”

Typically, about 60 percent of the population votes in the general election, Massey said.

“Harford County usually gets between 70 and 75 percent. We hope to have 6,000 vote early,” he said. “It’s easier than absentee voting, you have to fill out an application and mark it and make sure you mail it. With early voting, you walk in, go to a machine and you’re ready to go.”

After early voting is over, the voting equipment will be brought to the election office, according to Massey.

“It will be secured in a locked room,” Massey said. “The state is permitting us, on Sept. 14, Election Day, to be able to download the early voting statistics and report them at 8 a.m.”

People unable to vote early or Sept. 14 may request an absentee ballot for the primary election.

The deadline to request an absentee ballot is Tuesday, Sept. 7. Any registered voter in Maryland may request and vote by absentee ballot.

Applications for an absentee ballot may be printed from the election office website, www.harfordcountymd.gov/elections.

After Sept. 7, absentee ballot requests must be made in person at the election office, 133 Industry Lane in Forest Hill.

The polls will open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. on Sept. 14 for the primary election.

For more information about early voting or absentee ballots, please contact the Harford County Board of Elections, 410-638-3565 or ask@harfordvotes.info.


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