Baltimore City Elections Office Closes Early as Protests Downtown Intensify
As Tuesday’s unprecedented primary loomed, a ballot dropoff box and elections office in downtown Baltimore closed early Monday due to safety concerns over protests.
The Baltimore City Board of Elections office at 417 E. Fayette St. closed at 3 p.m. Monday, and a nearby ballot drop off box was shut down at 1 p.m. as another night of protests over the death of George Floyd began.
Thousands of people were marching peacefully through downtown Baltimore late Monday afternoon and into the evening.
Baltimore City Elections Director Armstead B.C. Jones Sr. cited the protests as the reason for the early closure. He was worried that leaving the building or even being in the building during the protests could jeopardize his staff.
Protests erupted in Baltimore and other cities across the country after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into the neck of Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, for more than eight minutes on Memorial Day. Floyd died of “asphyxia due to neck and back compression,” according to a family autopsy.
Derek Chauvin, the police officer who pinned Floyd even as he called out for help, was later charged with third degree murder and manslaughter. Protests against police brutality continued after his arrest – some of which escalated into violence.
While Baltimore leaders have praised peaceful protesters in the city, Jones still worried that the election could be jeopardized if ballots were destroyed. He said the ballots in the downtown elections office, as well as the ballot box itself, were being moved.
“You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t,” Jones said. “If somebody would have destroyed the box with voters’ ballots in it, then we would have been criticized for that.”
Jones said Baltimore residents can still drop off their ballots at other locations across the city, and added that the downtown ballot box would be up and running again at 6 a.m. on Tuesday.
The stakes are high in Baltimore for Tuesday’s election. Contentious races for mayor, City Council president and comptroller will all effectively be decided in the Democratic primary, which has mostly been conducted by mail.
“In order for us to be able to carry on with the election tomorrow, we have to have an office to do it in and we have to have staff to do it,” Jones said.