BERLIN — Voters across the Lower Shore did not head to the polls in droves for the primary election on Tuesday, following a similar pattern of relative disinterest across the state.
In the most high profile election on the primary ballot on Tuesday, Maryland voters followed a recent nationwide trend, throwing their support behind Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who garnered 49 percent of the vote in the state. Rick Santorum collected 29 percent of the Republican vote in Maryland, while Newt Gingrich garnered 11 percent and Ron Paul came in at just under 10 percent.
Locally, 53 percent of Worcester Republicans voted for Romney, followed by Santorum (27 percent), Gingrich (12 percent) and Paul (6 percent). In Wicomico, Romney garnered 42 percent of the vote, compared to 37 percent for Santorum, 13 percent for Gingrich and 8 percent for Paul.
Maryland’s incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Ben Cardin cruised on Tuesday, garnering 74 percent of the vote statewide, while collecting 79 percent in both Worcester and Wicomico. On the Republican side, U.S. Senate challenger Daniel Bongino won the statewide primary with 34 percent of the vote compared to 28 percent for runner-up Richard Douglas. In Worcester, Bongino garnered 38 percent of the vote, while Douglas came in at 26 percent. In Wicomico, Douglas collected 37 percent of the vote compared to 23 percent for Bongino.
The tightest race on Tuesday’s ballot proved to be the Democratic primary for Maryland 1st Congressional District and the right to challenge incumbent Republican Andy Harris in November. Candidates John LaFerla and Wendy Rosen finished in a virtual dead heat in a race that was still undecided as of yesterday. Across the 1st District, which includes the entire Eastern Shore, Rosen won 43.31 percent of the vote compared to 42.78 percent for LaFerla. In Worcester, LaFerla garnered 45.3 percent, while Rosen came in at 43.7. In Wicomico, both candidates remarkably came in at 43.5 percent.
Perhaps the biggest story on Tuesday was the abysmal voter turnout numbers. Statewide, just over 18 percent turned out to vote on Tuesday, a figure that went up to around 21 percent when the early voter numbers were added. In Worcester, nearly 19 percent voted on Tuesday and the total grew to 22 percent when the early voter numbers were added. In Wicomico, just 16 percent voted on Tuesday although the number grew to nearly 20 percent with the early vote added in.
A variety of factors likely contributed to the low voter turnout numbers including a lack of any substantial local elections on the ballot. In addition, the Maryland primary was much earlier this year than in 2010, when the primary was held in September just six weeks before the General Election. In the 2010 primary, voter turnout statewide was 25 percent, with Worcester at 35 percent and Wicomico at 27 percent. In the 2008 primary, statewide turnout was 43 percent, with Worcester at 48 percent and Wicomico at 49 percent. Worcester Board of Elections Supervisor Patti Jackson said this week the low numbers of Tuesday were predictable.
“Honestly, we were expecting a low turnout in this primary and the numbers bear that out,” she said. “Without any major local elections on the ballot, there just didn’t seem to be a buzz around the primary. I think November will be quite a different story.”