Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous, left, and Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, right, shake hands before a debate Sept. 24 in Owings Mills, Md. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

The number of Maryland Democratic voters requesting absentee ballots has more than doubled this year over the 2014 election cycle, an increase that party officials call a sign of a “blue wave” unfolding in Maryland.

“We see this is an enthusiasm advantage,” said Kathleen Matthews, chair of the state Democratic Party. “We think it confirms the blue wave that we’ve been pointing to.”

With less than a month before Election Day, 45,543 Democrats have asked for absentee ballots, compared with 24,831 independents and Republicans. Registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans more than 2 to 1 in the state.

More than half of voters who have asked for absentee ballots did not vote in the 2014 election, Matthews said, citing data she said the party received from the state Board of Elections. Sixty percent of the requests came from female voters, she said.

The data was welcomed by aides to Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ben Jealous, who trails Gov. Larry Hogan (R) by a wide margin in polls but says he will overcome that disadvantage by spurring a huge turnout of new voters.

A Washington Post-University of Maryland poll this week finds Hogan 20 points ahead of Jealous, with significant support among Democrats and overwhelming support from Republicans.

Jealous leads in only one jurisdiction, Prince George’s County, where Democrats outnumber Republicans 10 to 1.

Jim Barnett, campaign manager for Hogan, said in an email that Democrats are misinterpreting the requests from voters.

“Absentee ballots requests actually do not matter. What matters is absentee ballot returns,” he said. “[The Democratic Party] must attract much more actual support from voters than they are currently getting, and they have shown zero ability to do that.”

The state Democratic Party, which has increased investments in its ground operation this year, is pushing for more than 1 million voters to turn out to vote for Democrats up and down the ticket.

But the state Republican Party also is mounting an aggressive get-out-the vote operation, buoyed by Hogan’s record popularity. They are eager to flip control of at least five state Senate seats, which would eliminate the Democrats’ veto-proof majority in that chamber.