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Early voting centers will be open statewide Saturday through Thursday for those looking to cast their ballot ahead of the April 3 primary election.

The centers will be open from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m., except on Sunday, when they will open from noon until 6 p.m.

Charles County residents can vote early at the local board of elections office at 201 E. Charles St. in La Plata.

State voters approved early voting in 2008, but 2.44 percent of them actually voted early in the 2010 primary campaign.

In Southern Maryland, 3,865 cast early ballots, exactly 2 percent of all registered voters in Charles, St. Mary’s and Calvert counties.

Charles County saw slightly higher participation, with 1,962 electing to vote early, but at 2.2 percent of its registered voters the county still ranked ninth-lowest in the state.

Charles remains heavily Democratic, with more than 52,000 of its nearly 92,000 voters registered as Democrats — versus 24,700 Republicans and 14,300 independents.

The county contrasts starkly with St. Mary’s County, where Democrats had held an advantage in voter registration since 1990 but trail Republicans 24,341-to-24,449 once voter registration for the primary election closed March 13.

“There’s been a growing trend,” St Mary’s County Commissioner Todd Morgan (R) said of the increasing number of Republicans. Morgan, an executive with a defense contracting firm, moved to St. Mary’s in 1979 when there were far fewer Republicans than Democrats.

“The Republican Party, it isn’t a party of right wing, tea party zealots. In St. Mary’s County the party has grown to a moderate side,” he said. “The Republicans here try to draw in a conservative, moderate organization.”

St. Mary’s commissioners’ President Jack Russell (D), the lone Democrat on the five-member St. Mary’s board, said he was “not surprised” that Republicans now outnumber Democrats.

“The old Democratic Party is dying out,” he said.

Registration between the two major parties is split exactly even in Calvert County, where both Democrats and Republicans ended Thursday with 22,665 registered voters. Calvert also has 10,229 independents among its 56,359 registered voters.

jnewman@somdnews.com

Early voting

Early voting will be offered March 24-29 at the Charles County Board of Elections, 201 E. Charles St., La Plata.

Times to vote will be 10 a.m.-8 p.m. each day until March 29, except for Sunday, March 25, when the hours will be noon-6 p.m. (Those who vote during early voting cannot vote on Election Day or by absentee ballot.)

The local elections board can be contacted by phone at 301-934-8972, 301-870-3167 or 800-222-8683 or by email at info@elections.state.md.us.

Go to www.charlescounty.org/boe for more information.