More than 4,000 registered voters in Baltimore City have been removed from the voter rolls since the last federal election in 2012. But at Votefest 2014, an event sponsored by Radio-One to be held at Coppin State University on May 17, a number of organizations will look to register new voters as well as anyone whose registration may have been purged since that election.

The event comes just ahead of this year’s June 3 deadline for voting in the June 24 primary.

The state of Maryland has a multi-step process in place under which a registered voter can be removed from the active rolls. If a jury notice or any correspondence from a local board of elections to a registered voter is returned because that voter is no longer at his or her registered address and has not set up a forwarding address, the local board of elections will send a second correspondence to verify the address, according to Abigail Goldman, deputy director of the Baltimore City Board of Elections. If that second correspondence is also returned, the voter is placed on an inactive list.

Once placed on the inactive list, if that voter then fails to vote in the next two general elections, one gubernatorial and one presidential, he or she is removed from the roll of registered voters.

Since the 2012 presidential election, 4,246 people have been removed from the voter rolls in Baltimore City, Goldman said.

Because election years in which the presidency is not at stake tend to generate lower turnout than presidential elections, more Maryland residents may be at risk for removal from the rolls for their failure to participate this time around

“Quite frankly this campaign has been very dry, and the people are not as excited as we want them to be,” said Larry Young, an on-air personality with Radio-One, and the coordinator of Votefest 2014. Young will also be serving as one of the hosts, he said in an interview with the AFRO.

The 2008 and 2012 presidential elections saw 67 and 66 percent voter turnout in Maryland, according to the United States Elections Project, an elections research database created by George Mason University professor and Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Dr. Michael McDonald. However, the last two midterm elections in 2010 and 2006 saw that percentage drop to approximately 47 percent across the Old Line State.

For Young, the lack of voter engagement during mid-term elections is a mistake.

“If we do not see the voters come out in strong numbers around this country,” said Young, “we could very well see red states putting forth candidates and winning; that could beat the blue states, and that could lead the Obama administration to become lame duck.”

According to Young, the goal for Votefest 2014 is to register at least 1,000 people. To that end, the Baltimore Urban League, the Baltimore City Branch of the NAACP, and the National Action Network—all co-sponsors of the event—will have booths available at the event where voters may register.

This is the first year in Maryland in which the primary election will be held in June rather than the fall, according to Tess Hill-Aston, president of the Baltimore City NAACP, giving community organizations less time to register voters prior to the election than they have had in the past.

“A lot of people are not used to the fact—or none of us are—that the primary has come so soon, so we’re trying to do the best we can to keep people pumped up,” said Hill-Aston.

In order to register to vote in the state of Maryland, an individual must be a U.S. citizen, a Maryland resident, and at least 16 years old, according to the State Board of Elections website. While anyone 16 years of age or older may register, voters must be 18 in order to cast a ballot.

Additionally, anyone with a past felony conviction is eligible to register and vote so long as he or she has completed any court-ordered prison term, including parole or probation. Anyone convicted of buying or selling votes, however, is not eligible.

Votefest 2014 will be held at the Physical Education Complex of Coppin State University, located at 2523 Gwynns Falls Parkway in Baltimore City. The event will run from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and feature activities for children, including a magic show, and performances by R&B, hiphop, jazz, gospel groups, comedians, and step dancing troupes. Candidates for office are also expected to be on hand to address those gathered regarding their candidacies.

Roberto Alejandro

Special to the AFRO