Nearly 60,000 people in Maryland have turned out for early voting so far, a service the state started offering in 2010.
The 59,716 people who voted as of Wednesday represent 1.38 percent of eligible voters. In Baltimore County, just under 3 percent of eligible voters had cast votes.
There is still time to cast an early ballot on Thursday. Early voting in the state ends at 8 p.m.
“I’m using the phrase ‘slow and steady,' " said Montgomery County Board of Elections spokeswoman Marjorie Roher. “There are not lines in most cases at all; normally there’s one or two people at each of the poll places.”
Early voting started March 24 and ends at 8 p.m. Thursday, March 29.
The Maryland primary is Tuesday, April 3.
Early voting in the 2010 gubernatorial primary elections, the first year it was in place, netted 2.44 percent voter turnout, or 77,288 of the eligible voters, state election data shows.
Election officials in Maryland predicted the popularity of the program would grow, even though numbers aren’t expected to be high for this primary election.
“What we’ve seen from other areas in the country, as early voting catches on, it does become very popular,” Roher said. “It does give people the opportunity to choose when they want to vote and what location.”
This year, the election is “primarily a Republican primary and [Montgomery] county is highly Democratic,” Roher said. “Our overall anticipation for turnout—not anticipating high numbers all together, so we wouldn’t expect [high numbers] in early voting.”
Statewide, 1,964,655 people are registered Democrats, compared to 935,122 registered Republicans.
In Howard County, Guy Mickley, director of elections, predicted overall turnout for the primary would be 20 to 25 percent, “and that may be high.”
For early voting in Howard County, “the turnout is light, but for a presidential primary that has a returning president on the Democratic side, this is the turnout I would expect," he said.
Republican presidential candidates have made swings through Maryland this month. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s visits included a stop in , and on Wednesday, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, visited the University of Maryland.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was at Salisbury University Tuesday.
In terms of overall voter turnout, early voting won’t make much of an impact, said Donald F. Norris, professor and chairman of the Department of Public Policy at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.
“Virtually nothing improves voting turnout except when people are really, really excited about what’s going on in a campaign,” Norris said in an interview Thursday.
Still, “it makes it easier to vote … and that’s a good thing," he said.
Below is a selection of early voting turnout numbers and voter turnout percentages at various locations in Maryland as of Wednesday. For a full list, go here.
Baltimore County: 9,394; 2.27%
Prince George’s: 7,668 voters; 1.52% turnout
Howard: 4,695; 2.55%
Anne Arundel: 6,557; 2.46%
Harford: 2,493; 1.97%
Carroll: 1,487; 1.39%
Montgomery: 8,011; 1.38%
State: 59,716; 1.88%