About a half-million Marylanders can vote today for their representative in Congress, but officials hope only a tiny sliver of them will choose to cast a ballot in person.
The 7th District has been without representation in the U.S. House of Representatives since the death of Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D) in October. About half of the district’s voters live in the city of Baltimore, with the district’s boundaries stretching into Howard and Baltimore counties as well.
With the spread of COVID-19, the election will be the first test of large-scale voting by mail in the state of Maryland. Voters have been strongly encouraged to send in their ballots by mail or to bring them to dropoff containers to avoid creating crowds in voting centers.
Here are seven quick facts about the first-of-its-kind special election:
Who’s in the race?
Tuesday’s election will play a large role in Maryland’s voting systems moving forward, but the ballot is short.
The only race on the ballot is between former Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D) against conservative commentator Kimberly Klacik (R). The winner will serve until January.
Mfume, 71, is the former president of the NAACP and represented the 7th District from 1987 to 1996. He is favored to win the heavily Democratic district.
Klacik is a member of the Baltimore County Republican Central Committee and conservative commentator. Her social media posts about trash in West Baltimore prompted President Trump ― who frequently clashed with Cummings in his role as chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform ― to call the district a “disgusting rat and rodent infested mess.”
Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) said in March that he wanted the special election to move forward because voters in the district had been without representation since Cummings’ death in October.
How to mail a ballot
The State Board of Elections mailed ballots to all eligible active voters in the 7th District beginning in early April.
Local boards of election will accept ballots as they’re received in their offices after election day, but ballots must be postmarked by election day to count.
So, voters who drop a ballot in a curbside box must check the collection time to ensure their ballot would be processed on Tuesday.
Mailed ballots do not require a stamp, despite incorrect written instructions included in the ballot package.
Voters also need to sign an oath on the outside of their envelope to ensure their vote will be counted.
How to drop off a ballot
Each of the three voting centers open on Tuesday, as well as each county Board of Elections office, will have drop-off containers outside from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The local office addresses are:
Baltimore City Board of Elections: 417 E. Fayette St., Baltimore
Baltimore County Board of Elections: 11112 Gilroy Road, Hunt Valley
Howard County Board of Elections: 9770 Patuxent Woods Dr., Columbia
Where to vote in person
Limited in-person voting will be available for voters who did not receive a mailed ballot, who require the assistance of a ballot-marking device, or who qualify for same-day voter registration.
There is one in-person voting center for each county in the district. They are:
Baltimore City: Edmondson High School, 501 N. Athol Avenue
Baltimore County: Martin’s West, 6817 Dogwood Road, Windsor Mill
Howard County: Howard County Fairgrounds, 2210 Fairgrounds Road, West Friendship
What precautions are in place?
At polling places, physical distancing guidelines will be enforced.
In Howard County, elections officials have posted orange cones to create distance between voters if a line should form. In Baltimore County, in-person voting booths will be divided between three different rooms to avoid crowds.
Voters are asked to wear masks and other protective equipment to keep themselves safe.
The state purchased protective equipment for elections volunteers to wear. Poll workers will wipe down equipment between voters and following other public health guidelines.
How will results be released?
There were 483,191 vote-by-mail ballots sent to voters in the 7th District.
As of Friday, local boards had received 84,927 back. That includes:
- 23,933 returned ballots in the city of Baltimore;
- 31,659 returned ballots in Baltimore County; and
- 29,335 returned ballots in Howard County.
Local boards of election have been canvassing and counting ballots since last week. The first batch of election results will be released after polls officially close at 8 p.m. on Tuesday.
The process of canvassing returned ballots will be livestreamed on the local boards’ websites, and local boards have canvassing dates set through May 2 so far.
What’s next? Another election
The special election is being held to fill the remainder of Cummings’ term in the 116th Congress.
The primary election for the next full term in the same district is scheduled for June 2.
Mfume and Klacik are both candidates in their respective primaries.
In addition, five other Republicans and 18 Democrats will appear on the ballot.
The State Board of Elections is planning to meet twice in May, and, after reviewing the special election, officials may consider tweaks to the state’s vote-by-mail process before the June 2 primary.
Over the weekend, Hogan said the state may need to consider a largely vote-by-mail election again in November, depending on the spread of the novel coronavirus.
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