Current voter registration efforts in the city are at anemic levels, according to a veteran, respected civic activist. Marvin “Doc” Cheatham, former Baltimore City NAACP President and current President of the Matthew A. Henson Neighborhood Association said he is coming “out of retirement” to jump start an 11th hour voter registration drive in Baltimore.
“The voter registration community in Baltimore – I give them an “F”, Cheatham said. “We’ve only registered 5,000 persons since April. It’s almost unheard to do this poorly in registering voters in a six-month period leading up to a Mayoral and Presidential election, “Cheatham told the AFRO.
Cheatham is referring to the dismal local registration data recorded by the Maryland State Board of Elections. Currently, several Baltimore precincts report fewer than 100 persons registered to vote including precinct 08-009, (Council District 3) with only 67 registered voters in spite of an adjusted precinct population of 1,552 persons (Maryland Department of Planning data). Four additional precincts in Council Districts three, seven and 11 also report fewer than 100 persons registered to vote. (see chart below).
The Matthew A. Henson Neighborhood Association is using Fannie Lew Hamer’s Birthday on Oct 6 as a last call and rally for individuals to register to vote before the deadline for voter registration on Oct. 18.
“We are encouraging community groups, faith based institutions and labor unions to use Thursday October 6th as a date to do voter education and registration,” said Cheatham.
Other voter registration efforts include a joint push on Oct. 18, the final day for voter registration. The Baltimore Chapter NAACP and Radio One will join with other local voter education/registration organizations to host a host a final day voter registration drive on Oct. 18, said Former State Senator Larry Young this week during his morning drive-time radio show on WOLB.
Black Girls Vote, a national voter education and registration effort founded in Baltimore, is positioning themselves to focus on campus-based voter education/registration drives to ensure millennials are registered to vote before November.
“We’ll be out in force during homecoming season,” said Nykidra Robinson, founder of Black Girls Vote. Robinson said that millennials who are disenchanted with their choices in the upcoming presidential election need to consider who has their best interest at heart.
“People aren’t necessarily enthusiastic about either candidate. But the bottom line is that we have to look at which candidate will provide us more access when we have conversations about Black women and girls,” Robinson told the Afro. “If you are a big fan of President Obama, then you have to look at who will best preserve his legacy. If you want change, then vote for another candidate,” she said.
Cheatham said that one of his biggest concerns was the number of unregistered ex-felons who are still unaware of their right to vote in the upcoming November election. According to the Maryland Board of Elections, effective March 10, 2016, ex-felons who completed a court-ordered sentence are eligible to become registered voters.
The restoration of voting rights for ex-felons was passed by the Maryland General Assembly in the 2015-2016 legislative session. Although the bill was originally vetoed by Gov. Larry Hogan, the General Assembly narrowly overturned the veto in February, 2016.
With little more than a month before the Maryland primary registration deadline this past spring, many ex-felons and their advocates complained that they were not informed of their right to participate in the primary election. “With more than 20,000 former inmates now eligible to vote in the city, we have a lot of work to do in order to reach out to these new voters,” Cheatham said.
“Here we are again, with a little more than a month to go before the registration deadline for the general election,” Cheatham said. Early voting in Maryland starts Thursday October 27th and extends through Thursday November 3rd. General Election Day in the US is Tuesday November 8th.
CITY PRECINCTS WITH THE SMALLEST NUMBER OF REGISTERED VOTERS
|City Council District||Precinct||Registered voters (as of August 30, 2016)|
Source – Maryland State Board of Elections /Baltimore City Board of Elections