Baltimore residents will head to the polls on Nov. 8 to select the city’s next mayor, city council president, comptroller and city council members. However, lackluster preliminary reports on early voting participation provided by the Baltimore City Board of Elections indicate a low turnout expectancy for the general election.

Armstead Jones Sr., election director for the city’s Board of Elections, told the AFRO that of the 371,000 eligible voters in the city, only about 3,200, less than one percent, have taken advantage of the early voting period which extends from Oct. 28 to Nov. 3.

“Usually you would see between eight and 9 percent of eligible voters coming out normally during early voting. Of course we are way below that at this point. I think the general election will be just as slow, but we are hoping that people will come out and vote,” said Jones.

Male and female registered democrats aged 45-65 have the largest showing at the polls so far. Voters from councilwoman Helen Holton’s district and Legislative District 43 are leading the way.

Del. Keiffer Mitchell Jr. said that those numbers come as no surprise to him, as voter turnout during the primary election in September was also significantly low.

Unofficial numbers from the State Department of Elections show that during the primary election roughly 2 percent or 7,800 of city voters went to the polls during early voting in the primary and 22 percent or 74,000 voters came out on Sept. 13.

“It might be time to consider some other options to try and increase the turnout like tying the city elections to the state wide election cycle. It’s something worth exploring,” said Mitchell.

“There is a combination of factors that contribute to such dismal numbers. I think people are tired of politics. People feel let down by the economy and that can all be very problematic. In terms of the election for mayor and city council, it’s quite frankly, very lackluster. There hasn’t been a lot of coverage about it. The candidate forums were sparsely attended and that speaks to the overall election cycle in the city. The primary is where all the action is.”

Valeisha Whitfield, 22, said she plans to vote in the general election but was unaware of the option for early voting. “I was not fully informed about the candidates so I didn’t vote in the primary,” she said. The Morgan State University student said the low number of voters in the early election process does not surprise her.

“People in Baltimore don’t like to vote. We would just rather complain about things than show up at the polls,” she said.

Jones said that reports of voter fraud on absentee ballots are unfounded. As of press time no one has filed a report with the Board.

“Yesterday, a write-in candidate for city council had a press conference out on the steps of the Election Board advocating voter fraud dealing with some of our absentee ballots,” said Jones. “But the campaign has not brought that to my attention directly and neither have we had any voters call and say that they have received wrong ballots. “

Jones urges voters to call the Board of Elections at 410-396-5550 for general information and to report any impediments regarding early voting or absentee ballots. Voters can visit the Board of Election’s website to find their polling location, view legislative and congressional maps as well as print a sample ballot that they can take with them to the voting booth.

 

Melissa Jones

Special to the AFRO