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WYPR Election Coverage

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Voting rights advocates are worried that the formerly incarcerated are being denied the right to vote in this election.

They point to Latasha Fason, who received a letter from the Baltimore City Board of Elections dated Oct. 10 saying she could not vote because she’d been convicted of a crime.

But Fason, a member of Out For Justice, a Baltimore-based grassroots organization led by formerly and currently incarcerated individuals, says she had served her time when she registered to vote. 

John Lee

The first students are returning to Baltimore County school buildings next month. They are some of the school system’s most severely disabled children and go to one of four special schools.

This comes as there is a debate over whether all Baltimore County Schools should reopen.

Rachel Baye

Governor Larry Hogan announced Thursday a $250 million package of state aid for Maryland business owners. The announcement came a day after Comptroller Peter Franchot urged the governor to make the package available quickly.

Franchot told the governor during Wednesday’s Board of Public Works meeting that the aid would be the key to survival for many businesses and begged him to free it up quickly.

Misskprimary / Flickr


As Maryland school system leaders grapple with how to safely resume in-person learning, one thing is clear:  It will be very expensive. Four superintendents told a state Senate committee Wednesday that they need millions from the state to make it work. 

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An immunologist from Loyola University Maryland says the draft plan for distributing a potential COVID-19 vaccine that Gov. Larry Hogan released Tuesday needs some work. 

“It's still a bit vague. It's still a bit broad, “ Dr. Chris Thompson, the immunologist, said in an interview. “But I think it's as good as it can be with the information that we have now.”

Under Hogan’s plan, the state would prioritize those vulnerable to developing complications related to COVID-19, as well as frontline first responders, health care workers and essential workers. 

John Lee

A steady stream of Baltimore County voters is going to ballot drop off boxes at locations from Arbutus to Hereford with their mail-in ballots in hand.

A breakdown shows that the ones being used the least are in traditionally Republican strongholds.

 As of last Friday, the least used ballot drop box in the county was in Dundalk with a little more than 1,000 ballots cast. According to the county elections board, a close second was the one in Middle River with 1,133 ballots. Both are reliably Republican areas of the county.

Emily Sullivan/WYPR

The Baltimore City Council held a virtual meeting Monday night, where they passed a major tax sale bill and introduced a measure to tax electronic smoking devices. WYPR’s Nathan Sterner and Emily Sullivan walk us through the bills.

John Lee

In Baltimore County, election officials are counting the more than 84,000 mail-in ballots they’ve received.

They are fixing some voters’ mistakes along the way.

Emily Sullivan/WYPR

Twenty hungry goats spent five days on a hill in North Baltimore’s Wyman Park Dell, transforming it from a dense woodland overgrown with invasive plants to a slope so bare it could be the dead of winter. 


The goats were guests of the Friends of Wyman Park Dell, a nonprofit that raised more than $3,000 to bring the animals to clear the slope, adjacent to the Baltimore Museum of Art, as an environmentally friendly alternative to machines and herbicides. They were contracted through Wednesday, but finished their job ahead of schedule on Monday afternoon.

SARAH Y. KIM/WYPR

More than 100 people marched from Baltimore’s federal courthouse to City Hall Saturday chanting “No inauguration until confirmation” and “Vote him out” as part of the 2020 Women’s March.

They carried signs reading Vote Pro Choice, Protect Black Women and Dump Trump. 

It was a scene that played out in D.C. and in hundreds of cities across the country.

The march was organized by local advocacy groups, including Baltimore Women United and NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland. 

Baltimore City Public Schools' Facebook page


 Baltimore City schools administrators released Wednesday a plan to bring back a group of students that includes the district’s most vulnerable to 25 schools starting in November. In a town hall Thursday night, parents and teachers raised many questions and concerns to those  administrators.

“Why do families have a choice [to return to the classroom] but teachers and staff don't?” asked one commenter on a Facebook livestream. “If my child decides to continue to do virtual learning, will they have the same teacher?” asked another.

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A House of Delegates workgroup voted Thursday in favor of overhauling laws governing policing in Maryland. Among the changes, the group recommends repealing the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights and creating statewide rules for when and how police officers can use deadly force in the line of duty.

 

WYPR’s Rachel Baye and Nathan Sterner discuss the group’s work.

CREDIT PATRICK SEMANSKY/AP PHOTO

October 15 is the last day to respond to the 2020 Census. But just over half of Baltimore households have responded. 

Susan Licate, a Census Bureau media specialist spokeswoman said that Baltimore’s self-response rate is only 56.7%. 

“We’re lagging a little bit behind. So we want folks to know that the time is now. They need to step up,” she said. 

John Lee

More than 1.5 million Marylanders have asked for a mail-in ballot for this fall’s election. If you want to vote by mail but haven’t applied to get your ballot, time is rapidly running out.

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Baltimore’s health commissioner Letitia Dzirasa is urging residents to stay vigilant against COVID-19 with masks and social distancing, but also to protect themselves from the flu. 

At the mayor’s weekly briefing Wednesday morning, Dzirasa said that while the city’s positivity rate continues to decline, the daily count of new cases is 35% higher than last month’s. 

“We are here to remind people to continue to seek COVID testing at one of our mobile testing sites or at a clinical site,” she said. 

Lowell Larson via Flickr

The Baltimore City school board stared down a $21 million shortfall Tuesday night brought on by pandemic spending, as its CEO decides how to handle the rest of the fall term.

Like school systems throughout the nation, the city schools racked up costs to keep online instruction afloat and support students and families as classes went online in the spring and stayed there this fall. All in all, the district spent $131 million on initial pandemic-related expenses.

John Lee

Teachers who work at Baltimore County’s four schools for severely disabled students say it is unsafe to return to class.

SARAH Y. KIM/WYPR

On what is still officially Columbus Day in Baltimore, members of the city’s indiginous community rallied in the rain Monday afternoon calling for the renaming of the holiday.

The event was also a celebration of indigenous peoples’ culture, full of music, dancing and prayer. 

Led by Indigenous Strong, the rally came a week after the City Council passed a bill that would rename Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. But Mayor Jack Young has not signed the bill into law. 

John Lee

Residents of an historically African American neighborhood in East Towson are lobbying against plans for an affordable housing development. Those descendants of slaves who once labored at Hampton Plantation in Baltimore County, fear the project threatens the existence of their neighborhood. 

Baltimore County finds itself caught between those residents, and an agreement it has with the federal government to provide additional affordable housing.

County officials say it is also their moral obligation to do so.

Screenshot via Brandon For Baltimore


 Brandon Scott, Baltimore’s Democratic nominee for mayor, has nearly two-thirds of likely voters’ support, according to a poll commissioned by Scott and obtained by WYPR. The poll asked voters both where they stand in November’s general election race and what priorities they want the next mayor to tackle.

The poll, conducted by Global Strategy Group, found Scott with 65% of the vote, Independent Bob Wallace with 14% and Republican Shannon Wright with 6%. The Democratic firm surveyed 400 likely November 2020 General Election voters in Baltimore from Sept. 4 to Sept. 6. The voters were both Republicans, Democrats, Independents and reflect Baltimore’s November electorate. The margin of error is ±4.9%. Polls commissioned by campaigns tend to paint rosier pictures of their candidates than polls commissioned by neutral parties.

Rachel Baye / WYPR

If an FDA-approved vaccine to prevent COVID-19 were available today at no cost, less than half of registered voters in Maryland say they would get it, according to the latest Goucher College poll.

A slim majority of Democrats say they would get the vaccine, while slim majorities of Republicans and unaffiliated voters say they would not.

Ryan Harvey (used with permission)

Betty Garman Robinson, a Baltimore community activist and a longtime advocate for racial justice, passed away yesterday.

Robinson was a white college student in upstate New York when she first saw news about southern sit-ins. The images of violence against protestors pushed her to join the civil rights movement.  

Emily Sullivan/WYPR


  An unusually competitive general election race is heating up in Baltimore City’s District 12, where Green Party candidate Franca Muller Paz has outraised incumbent and establishment Democrat Robert Stokes.

Muller Paz, an activist and teacher at Baltimore City College High School, has campaigned on a progressive platform that emphasizes on community-centered crime reduction, combating the digital divide and investing in schools. She says the Democratic incumbent has not been fighting for the district.

Rachel Baye / WYPR

A new poll from Goucher College shows widespread support for the kinds of police reform policies Maryland legislators are expected to introduce in January. 

 

More than 80% of those polled said they support making records of police misconduct public and having an independent prosecutor investigate police misconduct cases. Nearly 80% said they support creating statewide rules for when police officers are allowed to use lethal force. 

Saturday is World Mental Health Day in what has been a particularly difficult year for many Americans. 

Dr. Asha Patton-Smith, a psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente, said that the pandemic has been especially stressful for young people. 

“Social isolation and family stress has affected children and adolescents really more than any other demographic in this country,” she said on WYPR’s podcast The Daily Dose

 

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As Halloween approaches, you may want to rethink how you celebrate this year. 

Dr. Chris Thompson, an immunologist at Loyola University Maryland, says trick or treating may not be the best of ideas.

He told WYPR’s The Daily Dose there are ways to do it with minimal exposure to COVID-19.  

Maureen Harvie/WYPR

In the wake of disgraced ex-mayor Catherine Pugh’s resignation, the Baltimore City Council introduced so many charter amendments intended to restructure power in City Hall that City Council President Brandon Scott created a new committee to manage them. 

Many of those proposed amendments made it to the November general election ballots. City voters can find a complete ballot preview here.

 

Voters tend to overwhelmingly approve ballot questions; in 2016, city voters passed all 10 of Baltimore's charter amendments and bond issues.  

 

If you’re a Marylander in need of health insurance for next year, the open enrollment period starts in November and rates have gone down since last year. 

Maryland Insurance Commissioner Kathleen A. Birrane said prices for insurance plans have dropped for three consecutive years, for an approximate cumulative 30 percent drop since 2018. 

“The 2021 plans reflect really the lowest rates in years,” she said in a webinar Wednesday afternoon. “Which is extraordinary and wonderful.” 

Emily Sullivan/WYPR

Baltimore will outsource water meter reading operations to the same third-party vendor that installed water meters throughout the city earlier this decade, Mayor Jack Young announced Wednesday. 

Young said the city has a five year contract with Itron, a Washington state based company, to conduct meter reading, small meter installation and general maintenance. It’s not the first time the company has worked with Baltimore: in 2013, the city awarded Itron an $83 million contract to overhaul and upgrade its water metering infrastructure, which included adding additional meters.   

John Lee

Baltimore County voters are deciding if the county can use tax money to finance political campaigns. The proposed change to the county charter is Question A on the ballot.

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