By the time the polls closed Friday, the last day to vote early in Maryland, 430,573 people — about 11.6 percent of eligible voters — had voted, according to unofficial numbers from the Maryland State Board of Elections. That compares with 219,601 — or 6.3 percent of eligible voters — in 2010.
In the District, officials estimated about 52,000 residents, more than 10 percent of the city’s registered voters, would take advantage of the early vote option by the time sites closed Saturday night. That is more than double the number of early voters in the September 2010 primary, when no-excuse early voting debuted.
In both Maryland and D.C., early voting locations were closed on Monday and Tuesday due to Sandy, but voting times were extended to compensate. Polls also closed those days in many parts of Virginia.
Virginia Republicans and Democrats alike have urged residents to “vote early” despite the fact that the state does not officially have any early-voting option open to all voters. Virginia allows absentee voting only for those who cannot make it to the polls on Election Day for certain reasons, such as military service, jury duty or a long commute. However, voters do not actually have to prove they meet those requirements.
As of Friday morning, 363,225 Virginia voters had cast either mailed or in-person absentee ballots, according to the latest figures from the Virginia State Board of Elections. That is down from the 417,251 Virginians who had voted absentee as of the Friday before the 2008 election.
Regardless, in-person absentee voting has been popular in the Washington suburbs. When the doors at the Arlington County building opened at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, about 20 people were already in line, waiting in the 40-degree chill to cast a ballot. By 10 a.m., more than 100 people snaked through the lobby and occasionally out the door.
Most said the 45- to 60-minute wait was worth it.
“I work for a Brazilian company and I have to be in New York Tuesday,” said Martha Devito as she left the polls. “My vote counts. I can wait for an hour.”
A young couple, Kisore and Shimu Anjir, stepped out of the county building and posed for a cellphone self-portrait marking the occasion. “We didn’t want to take any chances. Just do it now,” Shimu said.
A day earlier at the Silver Spring Civic Building, the line for early voting stretched out the door for about a block. Many residents said they came to vote in the presidential election and several controversial state referendums, particularly same-sex marriage.
“I don’t want to be waiting forever on Tuesday,” said Robert Taylor Smith, 18, who lives in Silver Spring and is a senior at Albert Einstein High School.