Early voting in Maryland was meant to make the ballot box more accessible by giving voters additional chances to cast their ballots, but instead, the perceived shortcomings of the program have spawned a debate over costs, benefits and partisan bias. Early voting turnout has been low since its introduction in 2010. Only 2.4 percent of all eligible voters cast their ballots ahead of the April 3 primary election — roughly the same as in 2010. Compared to the 2006 election, total turnout in 2010 stayed flat, with one in two Marylanders voting, though about 6 percent of those voters cast their ballots before Election Day, according to data from the Maryland State Board of Elections.
Michael Cain, a professor of political science at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, said the presidential election and controversial referendums on same-sex marriage and in-state tuition for some undocumented immigrants will likely lead to more people taking advantage of early voting this year. “Competitiveness matters to turnout,” Cain said. This fall, any registered voter can skip Election Day lines by voting between Oct. 27 and Nov. 1. Maryland offers no-excuse early voting, meaning a voter does not need to give a reason for missing Election Day.