The deadline for registering to vote in Baltimore is less than 40 days away.
April 5 is the deadline to register to vote in Baltimore. As of January, there were 368,625 registered voters in Baltimore, according to the State Board of Elections. Baltimore City has a population of 622,793, according to the U.S. Census. Of those, 132,032 are under the voting age of 18. That means that there are approximately 122,136 people who are not registered to vote, more than enough to sway an election.
One of the lowest mayoral primary election turnouts was in 2011 when only 23 percent of registered voters, or 12 percent of the population, voted, according to Splice Today. Years before weren’t much better with 28 percent of registered voters participating in 2007 and 34 percent in 2003, according to Splice Today. During the presidential election primary in 2012, Baltimore only had a 14.75 percent turnout, even lower than the 23 percent that voted in the mayoral primary election.
Black Girls Vote founder and CEO, Nykidra Robinson, thinks these numbers are sad but also said these numbers reflect a dissatisfaction within Baltimore.
Black Girls Vote is a recently formed Baltimore based organization that offers education to Black women on public policy decisions.
“I think people are tired of voting and not seeing results,” said Robinson, in an interview with the AFRO.
While Washington D.C. has a similarly sized population as Baltimore with 658,893 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, D.C has more registered voters with 438,373 people on the rolls, according to the D.C. Board of Elections. In the 2012 presidential election Washington D.C. had a low voter turnout of 16.98 percent, two percent more than Baltimore, according to the D.C. Board of Elections. Like Baltimore, Washington, D.C. is a predominantly Black city.
Max Hilaire, associate professor and chairperson of political science at Morgan State University, offered one reason African-Americans tend to vote less.
“Voting is relatively new to African-Americans compared to Caucasians. Legally they have made it extremely difficult for African-Americans to gain access to polls. Over the years I think African-Americans have not really benefitted from participating in the electoral process,” said Hilaire.
“Those who they have helped elect have become quite complacent and have not been able to deliver to their communities as such, whether presidential candidates or state-wide senatorial candidates. You have not seen that much of a significant difference in the well-being of African-Americans,” he added.
This year, the mayoral primary election is being held alongside the presidential primary election on April 26, with early voting beginning April 14 and going through April 21.
Effective March 10, Maryland citizens that have been convicted a felony and have completed their sentence will be eligible to vote. The move came after the legislature over-turned a veto by Governor Larry Hogan earlier this month.
Marvin L. ‘Doc’ Cheatham, Sr., president of the Matthew A. Henson Neighborhood Association and a former member of the Baltimore election board, welcomed former felons being given the right to vote but warned that turnout was key.
“Just giving our brothers and sisters their voting rights won’t make the difference by itself,” said Cheatham. “When we successfully register former felons turnout will increase.”
Black Girls Vote hopes to increase voter turnout in a number of ways. Those include providing ponchos and umbrellas if it rains on Election Day, possibly distributing free food to voters, and offering day care to voters with children.
“We’re just trying to make voting convenient but also make it fun and engaging,” said Robinson. “We’re encouraging people to not just go to the polls but go to the polls with a purpose. Everything we do is tied to policy, so let’s be strategic about the poll and voting.”