UPDATE: Early Voting Surges Ahead of Hurricane Sandy
Lines of more than 200 people stretched around early voting locations across Anne Arundel County on Saturday.
UPDATE (Sunday)—Early voting in Maryland was canceled for Monday because "the state of emergency in effect for all counties will interfere with the electoral process," according to an executive order signed by Gov. Martin O'Malley on Sunday.
An announcement regarding the early voting schedule on Tuesday, and the
potential extension of early voting beyond the scheduled end on Thursday, will be made at a later date.
Anne Arundel County voters waited for up to three hours in lines that wrapped around buildings in order to vote early on Saturday ahead of Hurricane Sandy.
"I got here at 7:30 a.m. and there were people lining up outside even though we didn't open until 10 a.m.," said Bob Ray, the chief Democratic judge at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Annapolis & Anne Arundel County. "We've served over 500 people, and it's not even 2 p.m."
In 2010, Annapolis' early voting location served 695 on its first day, according to election reports. Ray expects to "blow that number out of the water" by the time the polls close at 8 p.m.
The wait time in Annapolis peaked at more than two hours, but the wait at the West County Library in Odenton was even longer.
"One lady told me the line was estimated to be three hours," County Councilman Jerry Walker said. "People started lining up at 9 a.m. even though the polls weren't open until 10 a.m."
Walker, who voted early at the Edgewater Library on Saturday morning, said most of the people he chatted with worried about being able to vote after the storm.
"It's pretty much off the charts statewide right now," said Mary Cramer Wagner, the director of voter registration for the State Board of Elections. "I know that Montgomery County reported an hour and a half wait as well as St. Mary's County."
Hurricane Sandy, also known as the Frankenstorm, is expected to hit the Chesapeake Bay area Monday with winds that could reach up to 80 miles per hour.
Anne Arundel County voters could face longer wait times than other Marylanders because the County Council placed 15 charter amendments on the 2012 ballot—making it six pages long.
Election officials in Anne Arundel County are gathering generators to power some voting machines in case Sandy causes a power failure at one or more of its five early voting locations, said Director Joe Torre.
Torre said he was hopeful that the power at one or more locations will survive the Frankenstorm.
Baltimore Gas & Electric has recruited approximately 2,000 out-of-state linemen and support workers to assist in repairs after the hurricane. After June's derecho storm, some county residents were without power for a week.
Jan Erskine, a Democratic poll worker, was pleasantly surprised by the positive attitudes voters displayed on Saturday in spite of wait times that rivaled those for roller coaster rides.
She saw very few voters walk away because of the wait.
"It's not just the storm itself, it's what you have to deal with afterwards," Erskine said. "You know it's going to consume your time afterwards."
That was part of Annapolis resident Mary McCutchen's reason for sticking it out in the long line.
"I thought there would be one or two people here. I was surprised," McCutchen said. "I planned to vote early and with the storm I thought I really better get out here."
Early voting for the Nov. 6 general election started on Saturday and was set to run through Thursday.