BERLIN- In spite of heated campaigning by the candidates in this year’s presidential race, voter turnout decreased in Worcester County.
Unofficial turnout numbers released by the Maryland State Board of Elections Thursday set Worcester County’s voter turnout at 68.38 percent, down from the 76.64 percent of voters who turned out for the 2012 presidential election. In 2008, 80.45 percent of the county’s eligible voters visited the polls.
While overall turnout may have been down, those campaigning at local polling locations saw plenty of excitement among those who did come to vote.
“We had an elderly woman voting for the first time and a young man in his 20s who came to tell us the same thing,” said Elena McComas, secretary of the county’s Republican Central Committee, who was at polls in Ocean Pines on Tuesday. “It seemed like everyone got involved which is special.”
Judy Davis, a member of the county’s Democratic Central Committee, said she spent Election Day at Berlin Intermediate School (BIS).
“Worcester County Dems worked diligently to provide coverage at all of the polling sites,” Davis said. “BIS was a quiet location with about 1,000 registered voters there. About 450 voted before we closed at 7:15 p.m.”
Davis said she too spoke to an enthusiastic first-time voter eager to vote for a female president. She also saw several kids accompany their parents to the polls.
“It was encouraging to see children with their parents witnessing them voting,” she said.
In contrast to voter turnout, the number of people who participated in early voting increased substantially this year. In Worcester County, 7,359 people voted early. In the 2012 presidential election, just 2,824 county residents voted early.
Grant Helvey, chairman of the county’s Republican Central Committee, said the early voters he’d spoken to had done so as matter of convenience.
“It’s hoping they don’t have to wait as they might have to on Election Day,” he said.
Statewide, 880,673 people voted early, representing 22.58 percent of voters.
“It’s substantial,” Helvey said. “It turns out it’s very important for candidates to prepare for and work toward what happens in early voting.”
Between managing early voting and running the polls on November 8, Helvey said local election officials were faced with a significant amount of work. He said Republicans and Democrats alike appreciated their efforts.
“We have tremendous confidence in our elections board and the integrity of elections in Worcester County,” he said. “We appreciate the hard work and professionalism of our elections board and election officials.”