Bob Ross and Cassandra Freeman help with early voting by passing out water and snacks at the Sports and Learning Complex on Oct. 26 in Landover, Md. (Photo by Charnyse Burton)

By Charnyse Burton
Special to the AFRO

With days to go before the Nov. 3 election, the NAACP of Prince George’s County is encouraging people to take advantage of early voting, which started Oct. 26 in Maryland. 

The organization’s slogan is “Black To Vote” to push the overall message of encouraging the Black community to exercise its rights, according to NAACP president, Bob Ross. For the past month, Ross said they have posted hundreds of door hangers and made hundreds of phone calls to the community to drive home the importance of early voting. And they have vowed to keep pushing until election night is over. 

“This year already numbers are coming in big for early voting and mail-in is off the chain,” said Ross. “The rush is on, and the Black to Vote campaign is going well.”

The county has 52 early voting locations. The Sports and Learning Complex, Kentland Recreation Center, and the Racetrack Recreational Center are a few of the centers where high volume is expected. Ross said their group will be helping to ease the expected fatigue of voters waiting in long lines by handing out water and snacks during early voting and on election day.

Wandra Ashley-Williams of Owings Mills is a member of the NAACP National Board of Directors, and works with chapters all over Maryland to help people understand the power of the ballot.

“It’s your right, but it is also your responsibility as a citizen to have your voice heard, and no matter what it takes, you need to vote,” Ashley-Williams said. 

According to the Maryland State Board of Elections, Monday’s turnout of more than 161,000 was the highest single-day early voting turnout in the state’s history, beating the previous record by more than 17,000.

COVID-19 is playing a significant role in this election year, so the board of elections is asking all voters to take the proper precautions. Wearing a mask, keeping at a safe distance of six feet, staying hydrated, and wearing gloves or applying hand sanitizer will ensure the community’s safety, officials said. 

Even with the concerns of COVID-19, Ross said people he is encountering are still highly motivated. 

“We’re going to carry the state of Maryland. NAACP is going to be at the forefront doing that,” Ross said.

Charnyse Burton is a strategic communication major in the School of Global Journalism & Communication at Morgan State University.