BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The impact of the coronavirus was felt in Tuesday’s special election to fill Maryland’s 7th congressional seat, vacant since the death of U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings in October last year.
Voters in Baltimore City, Howard and Baltimore counties heading into the final hours of casting ballots to fill the seat had a whole new experience.
Sanitizer was supplied to poll workers and voters alike. Cones outside showed boundaries and paint lines on the floor inside marked off the distance voters must leave between each other and the poll workers.
These were the restrictions for people choosing to vote in person following the guidelines of social distancing imposed since the outbreak of COVID-19.
“It’s very different but I’m glad that they’re keeping everybody safe,” said a woman voting in Baltimore at Edmondson High School in Baltimore.
Voters have the choice between Democrat Kweisi Mfume and Republican Kimberly Klacik.
For Henry Kinard, it was a matter of principle to vote in person.
“People died for us to vote, and coming out made me feel better,” he said.
By early afternoon, 150 people had voted, but the city was prepared for greater numbers.
“I erred on the side of a high number because of the number of ballots that had been returned was very low, so this morning I really expected a line here and I did not have that,” said Armstead Jones, Baltimore Board of Elections administrator.
Voters have been strongly enforced to use the ballots mailed to them.
But those who did not come to the poll were glad to have it.
Alvin Wilson had no choice but to cast his ballot in person since he said he did not receive one in the mail.
“So I called the election board this morning, and they told me to come to this address and that’s what I did,” Wilson said.
Jones believes this single race election to fill the congressional seat is a good test for what’s to come in the June primary.
“This is a good test with the June 2 election statewide, presidential election, and many candidates this a good test and there’s some things I see now that I would do differently,” Jones said.
It is likely to be a few days before the votes are tallied.
Nikki Charlson of the Maryland State Board of Elections said they prefer voters mail in their ballots but they understand not everyone will be able to do so.
Across the entire district, which includes parts of Baltimore and Howard counties as well as Baltimore City, there will be just three open polling places:
- Edmondson High School, 501 North Athol Avenue, Baltimore;
- Martin’s West, 6817 Dogwood Road, Windsor Mill; and
- The Howard County Fairgrounds, 2210 Fairgrounds Road, West Friendship.
“Our strong recommendation is to use the mail-in ballot since it is the best way to keep people healthy,” Charlson said.
Voters will be able to register to vote in person if they need to.
Mail-in balloting isn’t new, but the scale of the election requires some big adjustments. Paper ballots have gone out and they need to be postmarked by Tuesday. No stamp is needed.
Polls opened at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.
As of 6:20 p.m. Tuesday, more than 110,000 mail-in ballots have been received. A total of 830 people voted in-person, including 364 in Baltimore, 283 in Baltimore County and 183 in Howard County.
Click here for the latest election results.