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Few voting early in Baltimore city as polls open for Maryland's primary election

Early voting for the primary election across Maryland began on July 7.
Bethany Raja
Early voting for the primary election across Maryland began on July 7.

Early voting for Maryland’s primary election began Thursday as both residents and candidates alike flocked to voting booths statewide.

The primary election was pushed back from late June to July 19 by the Maryland Court of Appeals. Republicans challenged newly drawn congressional maps approved by Democrats and claimed gerrymandering, so new congressional maps were created.

In West Baltimore, candidate signs blanketed the grass outside entrances of the WestSide Skills Center. A fire truck was positioned in the middle of the parking lot with campaign signs.

June Chambers, 82, decided to vote early because she won’t be in town on Election Day. Chambers wore a KN95 mask to protect herself and others from COVID-19 at the early voting site.

Citizens should pay attention to elected officials, voting is important, she said. She never misses an election and prefers to vote on site.

“As long as I can wiggle, I’m going to vote in person,” she said.

Overall though, she’s been unhappy with elected officials.

“We’ve been in a mess,” she said.

One of her top concerns is crime in Baltimore city and the issue needs to be dealt with at the root of the problem.

There are 4.1 million voters across the state, about 2.2 million Democrats and just shy of 1 million Republicans.

By 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Baltimore City Elections Director Armstead Jones, said things were going slowly, just 1,177 people had voted so far with no glitches.

“Everything opened on time and no issues at all,” Jones said.

There were 14,208 ballots cast during early voting statewide on the first day by mid-afternoon, according to the Maryland Elections department.

Early voting in Maryland ends on July 14.

Voter turnout is typically low during primary elections when there’s no presidential race.

In 2018, during the last gubernatorial primary, about 24 percent of voters cast ballots statewide, according to the Maryland Board of Elections. In Baltimore city, voter turnout was 26 percent while it was 24 percent in Baltimore County. Talbot County had the highest voter participation that year with 35 percent.

About 597,300 voters went to the polls and 222,400 voted early in 2018.

In 2020, during the last presidential primary election, 42 percent of residents voted.

Maryland sent 477,503 mail-in ballots statewide, as of July 6. Inside that figure, 46,435 mail-in ballots were sent to Baltimore city residents and 69,499 in Baltimore County. About 25,100 voters already cast their ballots as of July 5.

Kenny Ebron, 60, waved a green a white sign showing there’s been 180 murders in Baltimore so far this year, but since he made the sign, there’s been five more. Ebron said he wants to vote out ‘career politicians,’ bring fresh faces into office and encourage other voters to join him.

Some early voters wanted to remind residents about issues with crime in Baltimore.
Bethany Raja
Some early voters wanted to remind residents about issues with crime in Baltimore.

“I’m trying to put a stop on people voting for the same people who are in office who have not done anything,” Ebron said.

Poor academic performance from the Baltimore City Public School system was a major concern, he said.

“These children that don’t know how to fill out applications, don’t know how to get into the service, are not qualified for college,” he said. “The next thing they can do is become a squeegee kid. From squeegee kid to carjacking. From carjacking to robbing and stealing, and killing and murdering people.”

There’s a big gap between high school graduates and quality careers. Ebron himself graduated high school with the reading comprehension of a fourth grade student. He was traumatized after losing a parent at an early age. He wasn’t qualified for military service or college, he said.

“I was stuck. Stuck, and still to this day, I’m struggling and pushing to get through life, because I was cheated from my education,” he said.

Many candidates running for office had signs outside polling locations in Baltimore city.
Bethany Raja
Many candidates running for office had signs outside polling locations in Baltimore city.

In North Baltimore, outside the League for People with Disabilities, the early voting site was also bustling with voters and candidates.

Levexta Jackson-Crute, 74, decided to vote early, because she wanted to talk directly with some of the candidates. She always votes in person because she doesn’t trust the mail system.

“I really just wanted to hear what they were saying,” Jackson-Crute said. “You see them on the commercials and it’s a little different when you meet them in person. So I wanted to come out early to get my vote in.”

Her top concerns were crime in Baltimore city and lack of visibility among politicians in the community.

“I like the in-person, because some of the candidates are there, and they’re greeting you,” she said.

See the map below for early voting locations statewide.

Bethany Raja is WYPR's City Hall Reporter
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