Seven questions on our minds as primary polls prepare to open

Voters line up to vote in Charles County in 2020. Photo by Angela Breck.

Primary day is finally here.

And still, no one knows exactly who votes – or when we will finally know the official results of all the races. Here are some questions we’ll think about while we wait for the results:

What will voter turnout look like?

We have had constant reminders, with a dysfunctional Congress and countless consecutive US Supreme Court decisions, of the importance of state government. So why do you feel like no one paid attention to this election, with recent polls showing a high number of undecided voters? Who actually votes? When and how do they vote?

With President Trump’s departure from the White House, will voter turnout return to its disjointed standards in the medium term? Why are so many people so less passionate about national and local elections than they seem to be about presidential contests? And did Maryland’s electoral system, with all the options for voters, cloud things?

How Trump-y are Republicans in Maryland, really?

Polls have shown an overwhelming number of Republicans in Maryland think fondly of the former president. But will this sentiment show up at the ballot box? Several Republican leaders preach pragmatism: vote for the conservative most likely to win a general election, rather than the purest or most Trumpiest.

The governor’s primary, between Del. Dan Cox (R-Frederick) aligned with Trump and Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr.’s choice, former Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz will say a lot about the desires of Republican voters (many Republicans in Maryland, to be fair, like Trump and Hogan). So will the GOP primary for Attorney General (former Anne Arundel County Councilman Michael Peroutka is the Trumpers’ pick), the primary for Anne Arundel County Executive ( watch former Del. Herb McMillan), the primary for Harford County executive (State Sen. Robert Cassilly is the Trumpier nominee), and the state Senate GOP primary in the 37th District on the east coast, where Del. Johnny Mautz challenges Senator Adelaide Eckardt from the right.

What is the status of the O’Malley brand and the O’Malley machine?

Katie Curran O’Malley’s bid for attorney general has brought the group together in a big way, and former Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) is reveling in the “reversal of roles”. But is the O’Malley brand a net positive in the Democratic primaries these days?

Curran O’Malley faces in the Democratic primary Rep. Anthony Brown (D), who was once Lieutenant Governor Martin O’Malley.

Many of O’Malley’s closest confidants serve as informal advisers to Wes Moore’s gubernatorial campaign. There are parallels between the political skills of Martin O’Malley and those of Moore. But are the tricks that worked in 2006 and 2010 relevant today? We will soon find the answers to both questions.

Which party will be the most divided after the announcement of the primary results?

Who would have predicted a few months ago that Republicans in Maryland might come out of the primary more broke and divided than the still surly Democrats? But it most likely is. Can you imagine Dan Cox endorsing Kelly Schulz — or vice versa? Can you imagine supporters of one GOP candidate rallying behind the other?

Some Democratic leaders may have a hard time swallowing Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) as their gubernatorial candidate, and there are sure to be some hurt feelings no matter who wins the primary. But most grassroots voters will side with their candidate.

Will the devs have their way into county races?

Real estate interests are flexing their muscles and throwing big money into county races in Montgomery, Prince George, Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Howard counties, to name a few – aided and abetted in some cases by the editorial board of The Washington Post, whose editorials, in some cases, could almost be considered in-kind contributions. Let’s see what their money can buy.

Which candidates will play the spoilers?

With so many close races, every vote counts, which means candidates in multi-candidate fields, even if they only get a few percentage points, will be major factors. Who will we talk about as real spoilers after the dust clears? We have some ideas, but we will let the voters speak. Pay particular attention to Rushern Baker’s total in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. The former Prince George’s County leader has suspended his campaign, but he still leads the polls and is as high profile as almost anyone running for office this year.

When will the results be finalized?

Lord only knows. Maryland is the only state this election year that specifically prohibits the processing of mail-in ballots before polls close on Election Day. Thirty-three states allow absentee ballots to be counted on or before Election Day.

Election officials have expressed concern about Maryland’s reporting schedule this year, given the potential volume of mail-in ballots, which take longer to process.

More than 10 times more mail-in ballots were requested this year compared to 2018, the last time the current rules were used to count mail-in ballots.

Nearly 500,000 mail-in ballots were requested and more than 190,000 had been returned by Sunday – a volume so high it could surely alter the results after election night.

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