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A Light Turn-Out In 7th District Election

Joel McCord
Entrance to the polling place at the Howard County Fairgrounds
Credit Joel McCord
Empty voting booths at Edmondson High School

Voters in Maryland’s Seventh Congressional District headed to the polls Tuesday to choose someone to fill the remainder of the term of the late Rep. Elijah Cummings.

But the turn-out was extremely light in an election conducted almost completely by mail-in ballot.

There were more poll workers and election judges than voters in the gym at Edmondson High School Tuesday morning. A lone voter marked his ballot in one of nearly two dozen voting booths at the school. It was one of three in-person voting stations set up for this election.

The race pits Kimberly Klacik, the founder of a non-profit and a member of the Baltimore County Republican Central Committee, against Kweisi Mfume, who held the seat for years before resigning to become president of the NAACP.

Armstead Jones, Baltimore City’s elections director called the turn-out “a real disappointment,” especially after elections officials in the city and Baltimore and Howard counties had created in-person voting stations to meet demand.

He said fewer than 200 people had voted at the high school by mid-day.

And it was pretty much the same at the Howard County Fairgrounds, where the polling place was empty. The chief judge there, Mimi--who wouldn’t give her last name--reasoned that was because of the mail-in ballots.

“Everybody got one by mail,” she said. “So, I think a lot of people did that.”

In March, Gov. Larry Hogan called  for a mail-in ballot only election, to protect voters and poll workers from the coronavirus pandemic, but state elections officials later decided to set up the in-person polling places for those who didn’t get a mail in ballot.

Philip Robinson, Sr., who was voting at Martin’s West in Baltimore County, said he got a mail-in ballot, but he accidentally shredded it.

Still, he said, “I like coming out to vote better anyway.”

And the process “went very, very smooth.”

“You just walk in, it’s not a lot of people. It’s no people really, so yeah, it went real well.”

Stacy Rodgers, Baltimore County’s administrative officer, called the turn-out “a good trickle.”

“Folks have come in, gone through quickly,” she said. “We’re set up to accommodate up to 60 persons at a time with appropriate social distancing to ensure that voters as well as the staff are safe.”

And although the turn-out was light compared to other elections, she said voters who showed up were happy to see them.

“People are just glad we’re here to provide them with the opportunity to vote in person, or if they need it, special assistance.”

According to elections officials, more than 100,000 vote-by mail ballots had been returned by Tuesday. And there were drop-boxes at each of the election sites for mail-in ballots. Voters had to have ballots in those drop-boxes by 8 p.m.

Mail in ballots must be postmarked Tuesday, April 18, and received in local elections offices by 10 a.m. May 8.

Election officials say they’ll have a result by May 8.

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