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Voters Head to Polls for Prince George's County Primaries

Prince George's County voters cast their ballots Tuesday in the primary elections.

Update, 9 p.m.: Turnout was lighter than many poll workers and voters had expected. The polling station at Nicholas Orem Middle School had seen a modest 312 people—269 of them Democrats—come to vote as of 6:30 p.m.

“With people getting out of work around now, we thought it would be crowded, but it’s not. The lines are moving pretty quick,” said Ben Yoseph, a Hyattsville resident who cast his ballot at Nicholas Orem.

Carol Milligan, a volunteer for Angela Alsobrooks’ campaign for Prince George's County state’s attorney, attributed some of the low turnout to Maryland’s introduction this year of early voting.

Even if the number of early voters was not large, it may have been enough to shrink the number of voters appearing today.

“They did pretty well with that,” Millligan said in reference to the early voting option. “I’m sure that did affect the turnout today.”

Milligan wasn’t expecting a huge voter presence anyway, though.

This year isn’t a presidential election cycle.

“Midterms are more like that anyway,” she said.

Voter discontent over the economy and other national policy issues would have hypothetically brought many dissatisfied voters to the polls, according to some pundits, as well as boost Republican poll numbers. But neither seems to have taken place in Prince George’s County, according to Neal Conway, a volunteer with the Rushern Baker campaign.

“It doesn’t seem to have affected Maryland much,” he said.

Update, 1 p.m.: Constituents of all types are out at the polls today. Moms. Neighbors. Grandparents. Dogs.

Wait, dogs? At the polls?

Resident Maria Boroja brought her black Labrador to Hyattsville City Hall to help vote. The dog even wore an oval "I Voted" sticker on its harness.

For both dog and owner, today's primary election is about change.

"[It's about] getting somebody who's not an incumbent, [electing] people who aren't going to [stay] with the status quo." Boroja said as she left the polls.

By just after 11 a.m., City Hall had seen only 41 democrats, 9 republicans and 1 provisional voter, said Election Judge Eddie Colston.

Turnout was low because of early voting, he said.

Resident Lisa Walker voted largely out of concern for the economic development of Prince George's County.

"I've lived here for a couple decades," she said. "I'm concerned that we don't enjoy the kinds of retail … the kind of choices that other counties have."

She said he wants to see "sensitive and intelligent" people in office.

Resident Percy Stinson, a supporter of incumbent Governor Martin O'Malley (D-Md.) went into the voting booths mainly concerned about the economy and the state and national government.

"I was thinking in terms of supporting the democratic ticket," he said after voting. "I think the federal government should have the most control over the people."

Stinson said he does not believe in states' rights, because the states haven't historically offered equality on the issues of civil rights.

Voters are trickling in to polling stations across Prince George's County this morning to cast their ballots for the primary elections.

A total 223 stations, 11 of them in Hyattsville, run from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. across the county. Hyattsville's stations include the Hyattsville branch of the Prince George's County Memorial Library System, Edmonston Recreational Center, Nicholas Orem Middle School, and Hyattsville City Hall.

At stake are the party nominations for candidates for county executive, county sheriff, county state's attorney, register of wills, three judicial seats, nine board of education seats, and nine county council seats. Voters also will decide 17 seats on the Democratic Central Committee and seven seats on the Republican Central Committee.  

The races for county executive, county sheriff, and county state's attorney are particularly competitive, with a respective five, seven, and five candidates running for each. All 17 are democrats.

Michael Jackson and Rushern Baker appear to dominate the county executive race. Polls have consistently given them the lion's share of likely voters.

"It's really just between those two guys right now," said Hyattsville resident Jim Menasian in reference to Jackson and Baker.

He added that the state's attorney contest "should be a close race."

Tuesday's primary follows the closing on Sept. 9 of Maryland's first-ever early-voting period. The early voting period allowed voters who could not vote on Election Day to visit polling stations and cast their votes in advance.

Less than 3 percent of eligible voters opted to turn in their ballots during the early-voting period. But Menasian expects much higher participation on Tuesday's primary voting due to the high stakes: In Prince George's County, whoever wins the democratic primary almost always wins the general election.

"For this election, it's almost always the primary," he said.

With most of the nation still recovering from the economic recession, many pundits have noted a strong anti-incumbent bias in elections around the country. Tuesday's primary will determine if county voters will follow this trend and push for a new slate of officials.

"Trying to get better leadership, that's what it's all about," said Hyattsville resident Ben Cellus.  

This election also debuts a newly innovated line of electronic voting machines that not only identify an individual voter's voting precinct, but also a map of his or her respective polling station and its surroundings.

Ireene Ohlmacher, election judge at the library's polling station, said that this new feature is extremely helpful for orienting voters who arrive and need directions on where to go to vote.

"Before, we might say 'you have to go to Glen Burnie,' and they'd be like 'I don't even know where that is,'" she said. "This is faster and more efficient."

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