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Md. Officials Work To Increase Voter Turnout

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Derek Valcourt began working at WJZ in September 2002. His first major...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — As the last-minute campaigning continues, so does the last-minute effort to get Maryland voters to the polls.

Derek Valcourt has more on the effort to drive up voter turnout.

Four years ago, the race for president drove Maryland voters to the polls. This year, it’s the ballot questions.

If long lines for early voting in Maryland are any indication, interest in this year’s election runs high.

“Because we really want Barack to win and I’m out here voting for him,” said one early voter.

In all, more than 430,000 early ballots were cast last week–that’s 11 percent of the state’s total registered voters. But UMBC public policy professor Donald Norris predicts voter turnout won’t be as high as four years ago.

“That prediction could be upset and turned on its heals by the fact that we’ve got ballot questions that people are very, very invested in,” Norris said.

Specifically the Dream Act, expanded gambling and same-sex marriage conjure up passionate feelings in many voters. Voter turnout could make a huge difference in some of the closely contested ballot initiatives where victory or defeat could hinge on just a few votes.

“It’s going to be close,” said Ezekial Jackson, Marylanders for Marriage Equality. “We’re not taking anything for granted.”

That’s why the campaigns to support or stop each of the ballot initiatives have huge “get out the vote” efforts. They’re calling voters and dispatching armies of volunteers to polling places.

“In a situation where the election is very close, who gets the most of their supporters to the polls will, in almost every case, result in a decision favorable to that side,” Norris said.

Maryland has had pretty high turnout in past presidential elections. In 2008, 77 percent of Marylanders voted.

The Census Bureau ranks Maryland 27th in the nation when it comes to voter turnout.

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