Record Number of Absentee Ballots Mailed in So. Md. for 2006 Election - Southern Maryland Headline News

Record Number of Absentee Ballots Mailed in So. Md. for 2006 Election


More Absentee Ballots were mailed to Republicans than Democrats in all three counties even though Charles and St. Mary’s have more registered Democrats. With the exception of Charles County, Republicans slightly more likely to Vote than Democrats.

By David Noss

SOUTHERN MARYLAND – This is the first year in Maryland where anyone can vote by absentee ballot without specifying a reason. In prior years, one needed to justify why they would be unable to make it to the polls on Election Day.

Coinciding with the change in the law, many prominent political figures have been recommending to Maryland voters that they take advantage of absentee voting. The politicos range from Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan to gubernatorial candidates O’Malley and Ehrlich to First Lady Laura Bush speaking on behalf of the Republican National Committee (RNC). The reasons given vary from providing a means to “vote early” (RNC), to lack of confidence in the electronic voting machines (Duncan) to concerns about the ability of the machines to be exploited (Ehrlich).

The deadline to request an absentee ballot was midnight on Tuesday, October 31.

We called the Election Boards for all three southern Maryland counties to see if the law change, and the subsequent recommendations to take advantage of voting by mail, actually caused an increase in the number of ballots requested.

All three counties reported that they issued more absentee ballots this year than in any prior year—including in a Presidential Election year. Officials from all three counties agreed that the voter turnout for presidential elections typically far exceeds that of mid-term elections such as the one this year.

CALVERT COUNTY

Calvert County issued a total of 2,796 absentee ballots this year. The most absentee ballots that Calvert ever counted in one election was 2,352 in 2004—a presidential election year. Assuming all ballots that were mailed this year are returned, this represents an 18% increase in the number of absentee ballots counted this year over 2004.

Of the ballots issued, 51.5% (1,441) went to Republicans, 38.2% (1,068) to Democrats, and 8.9% (248) to unaffiliated voters. However, the number of registered Democrats and Republicans in Calvert is almost evenly split. There are 20,312 (40.1%) Democrats, 20,882 (42.0%) Republicans, and 8,504 (17.1%) voters are split among the other parties and unaffiliated.

So far, 1,153 (41.2%) ballots have been returned. Of the ones received back so far, 57% (659) were from Republicans, 35.2% (406) from Democrats, and 6.5% (75) from unaffiliated voters.

Registered Republicans in Calvert County are also slightly more likely to vote than their Democratic counterparts. 83.69% of Republicans actually voted in 2004 compared to 80.33% of Democrats. For 2002 it was 66.62% Rep. vs. 63.98% Dem. and in 2000 it was 78% Rep. vs. 77% Dem.

CHARLES COUNTY

Charles County issued a total of 3,490 absentee ballots this year. The most absentee ballots that Charles County previously issued was during the 2004 Presidential Election when they mailed out approximately 3,000. This represents a 16.3% increase in the number of ballots mailed this year over 2004.

Of the ballots issued, 46.0% (1,606) went to Republicans, 42.4% (1,481) to Democrats, and 8.2% (288) to unaffiliated voters. Even though 46% of the ballots went to Republicans, they represent only 33.7% of the registered voters in Charles County. There are 37,918 (49.7%) Democrats, 25,733 (33.7%) Republicans, and 12,623 (16.5%) split among the other parties and unaffiliated.

So far, 1,784 (51%) have been returned. Of the ones received back so far, 51.7% (923) were from Republicans, 39.0% (697) from Democrats, and 5.5% (99) from unaffiliated voters.

Registered Republicans and Democrats are almost equally likely to actually vote in elections in Charles County. 81.24% of Democrats voted in 2004 compared to 80.05% Republicans. For 2002 it was 62.69% Rep. vs. 59.01% Dem. and in 2000 it was 78% Dem. vs. 77% Rep.

ST. MARY’S COUNTY

St. Mary’s County issued a total of 2,549 absentee ballots this year. The most absentee ballots that St. Mary’s previously issued in one election was approximately 1,500 during an unspecified presidential election year. This represents a 69.7% increase—the largest of any of the three counties. St. Mary’s is also home to the hotly contested race for State Senator of District 29.

Of the ballots issued, 48.6% (1,239) went to Republicans, 42.8% (1,090) to Democrats, and 8.2% (208) to unaffiliated voters. As with the other counties, the number of ballots mailed to Republicans was disproportionate to the number of registered voters. 48.6% percent of the ballots were sent to Republicans while they only represent 40.1% of the registered voters. There are 22,029 (42.7%) Democrats, 20,722 (40.1%) Republicans, and 8,878 (17.2%) split among the other parties and unaffiliated.

So far, 1,297 (50.9%) have been returned. Of the ones received back so far, 51.5% (668) were from Republicans, 43.6% (566) from Democrats, and 4.6% (60) from unaffiliated voters.

Registered Republicans in St. Mary’s County are also more likely to vote than their Democratic counterparts. 81.72% of Republicans voted in 2004 compared to 77.28% of Democrats. For 2002 it was 65.31% Rep. vs. 63.83% Dem. and in 2000 it was 70% Rep. vs. 65% Dem.

(Dee Jay Gude contributed to this article)

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