How to cast your vote in Maryland, D.C. or Virginia before – or on – Nov. 3

By RACHEL CLAIR, KAANITA IYER and JACOB ROUSSEAU – Capital News Service

With confusion looming over voting amid the coronavirus pandemic, several states have announced their plans to make it easier to vote in the upcoming general and local elections on Nov. 3. 

The revamped voting process includes ballots sent via mail and accessible drop box locations for those who wish to avoid in-person voting, as well as early voting centers to ease expected delays.  

Capital News Service has assembled the following guide on voter registration, voting by mail, and early and Election Day voting in Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia. 

Maryland

There are lots of ways to vote in Maryland. Let’s break down the steps for each. 

First, you must be registered to vote. Contact your local or state Board of Elections to confirm your address. You may register online or by mail. The deadline is Oct. 13. For more information: https://voterservices.elections.maryland.gov/OnlineVoterRegistration/InstructionsStep1

If you do not want to go to a polling place in person on or before Election Day, the first step is to request a ballot. 

The Board of Elections is urging Marylanders to vote through mail-in ballots — formerly known as absentee ballots — due to the coronavirus pandemic. Maryland’s mail-in process is two steps: A ballot request form; and then the ballot. 

Maryland voters should have received, by mid-September, mail-in voting applications in the mail sent to their home addresses. Return this application to the Board of Elections to have a ballot sent to you. Here is a video explaining the process: https://youtu.be/X3SEja6u6xg

Voters who did not receive a mail-in voting application in the mail can request one on the Maryland Board of Elections website:https://voterservices.elections.maryland.gov/onlinemailinrequest/InstructionsStep1.

Mail-in voting applications, whether sent online or through the mail, must be returned by Oct. 20. 

Once your application for a mail-in ballot has been processed, you may pick up a ballot at some local boards of elections; you may print your ballot from an email link sent to you; or it can be mailed or faxed to you. 

Ballots can be sent via the U.S. Postal Service, hand delivered to a local board of elections or polling place, or put in official drop boxes. Ballots may be marked online, but may not be emailed, faxed or cast online. 

Voters who choose to mail-in their votes through the Postal Service must have them postmarked by Nov. 3 and received by 10 a.m. Nov. 13, in order to be counted. Ballots must be filled out in black ink and the envelope (but not the ballot) should be signed. 

The Board of Elections is installing around 280 boxes in public places around the state. Here is a list of locations: https://elections.maryland.gov/elections/2020/PG20_Drop%20Box%20Locations.pdf 

The deadline to drop ballots in one of these boxes is 8 p.m. on Nov. 3.

Maryland residents may vote in person at early voting locations or, on Election Day, at polling places. 

Early voting will run from Monday, Oct. 26, to Monday, Nov. 2. Voters must vote in their home county. There are at least 89 early-voting centers across the state:https://elections.maryland.gov/elections/2020/2020%20Early%20Voting%20Centers.pdf

On Election Day, there will be more than 300 voting centers statewide, and these can be found here: https://elections.maryland.gov/elections/2020/PG20_List%20of%20Election%20Day%20Vote%20Centers.pdf 

Centers will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 3. COVID-19 precautions and signs will be implemented at these centers to ensure the safety of voters.

District of Columbia

The District will send ballots to every registered voter via mail for the Nov. 3 general election. Residents may drop off the ballots at any of the 50 drop box locations at any time before 8 p.m. on Election Day. 

In-person voting is also available in the District starting Oct. 27 at 8:30 a.m. The Board of Elections has set up 32 early vote centers, along with nearly 100 day-of vote centers that will open at 7 a.m. 

The complete list of drop box locations, early vote centers and Election Day vote centers can be found here.  

Residents may register to vote via email or mail by filling out this voter registration application. All applications must be emailed by or, if by mail, received by the Board of Elections no later than Oct. 21. Same-day registration is available as well during early voting and on Election Day with acceptable forms of proof of residence. You can also check your registration status here

For more information, see the Board’s voter registration guide. 

Virginia

To help lessen the burden on voters during the pandemic, early access voting began Sept. 18 and ends on Oct. 31 at local elections offices. Voters must have an acceptable form of identification, which includes a drivers license or passport. 

Virginia citizens may also vote via mail-in or absentee ballots by filling out this voter registration application. Local registrars made these ballots available to the public starting Sept. 18 and the deadline to request a ballot is 5 p.m. on Oct. 23. You may also fill out your mail-in ballot at home and return it in-person.

If you are unable to make certain voting deadlines, emergency absentee ballots can be requested from your local elections office until 2 p.m. on Nov. 2.Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed legislation on Sept. 4 to allow cities and counties to deploy ballot drop boxes. Virginia residents should consult their city or county elections offices for locations.

For more voting information, see Virginia’s Department of Elections, frequently asked questions page.

Questions Mount for Maryland’s Next Session

Delegate Julian Ivey, D-Prince George’s, far right in dark suit jacket, sits with special session demonstrators on Sept. 16. (Philip Van Slooten / Capital News Service).

By Philip Van Slooten
Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS, Maryland — General Assembly leaders in Maryland ended the 2020 session early and recently declined a special session due to pandemic and presidential election concerns. But they have yet to announce plans, particularly regarding legislative voting, as the next session draws near. 

“The reason we aren’t having a special session is because we need information,” Senate President Bill Ferguson, D-Baltimore, on Sept. 16 told demonstrators staging a mock General Assembly session outdoors while wearing masks and sitting six feet apart. “We need to do the work to make sure that when we convene as a General Assembly, we solve the problems that you care about.”

Ferguson and Jones further explained in a Sept. 17 letter to legislators concerns about acting “with imperfect information that will only be clear after the November 2020 Presidential election,” and stated convening an early session “would be a misstep and a disservice to the people of Maryland.”

In the letter, the legislative leaders articulated priorities such as police reform, long-term housing stability and improvements to working conditions, but stated the need for “greater clarity of federal support for state and local governments.” 

Ferguson and Jones indicated more information regarding federal funding and policy could be clearer after the election. 

The Maryland General Assembly ended its previous session early, on March 18, due to pandemic concerns. Though a special session had been planned early on for May, in a joint statement released April 20, both Ferguson and House Speaker Adrienne Jones, D-Baltimore County, stated it was still too soon to safely reconvene. However, virtual committee meetings continued. 

“After consulting with health experts, this is the best course of action at this time,” Jones stated on April 20. 

Sen. William C. Smith Jr., D-Montgomery, told Capital News Service on Thursday one option was for legislators to meet in Annapolis in person, masked and socially distanced, and to live-stream proceedings for the public, lobbyists and others. 

“That’s why the hearings are so important,” he said of the virtual committee meetings being held since the session ended. “We are road-testing the technology to make sure things work and the public can still be involved.”

However, Christianne Marguerite, the digital and communications organizer for Progressive Maryland, one of the groups behind the call for a special session, told CNS the purpose of last week’s mock assembly was to show it was possible for the legislature to return to work even during the pandemic. 

“According to the constitutional constraints, the General Assembly doesn’t have to meet in a statehouse but in the capital of Annapolis,” Marguerite said. “That’s why we’ve mentioned outdoor venues (as possible demonstration sites) that can hold 141 individuals safely.”

Organizers chose the football field next to Phoenix Academy in Annapolis because it was a five-minute drive from the State House and could safely hold legislative members as well as members of the public and press. 

According to data collected by the National Conference of State Legislatures, 41 states have met in either a regular or special session since March, including Virgina, which began a special session on Aug. 18 to address the budget, police reform and pandemic-related issues. Maryland is one of seven states that adjourned sine die in March without reconvening. The conference reported Texas and North Dakota as “not in session” for 2020. 

A number of states held special sessions during the pandemic and past Maryland’s early end on March 18. (Data Source: National Conference of State Legislatures)

But Ferguson and Jones remained unconvinced, with Ferguson repeatedly telling demonstrators about the need “to get it right.”

Similarly, Republican House Minority Leader Nicholaus Kipke, R-Anne Arundel, told CNS the constitution may require in-person voting on legislation, and leadership was “looking into how this can be done as safely as possible,” but there were no final plans for January as of yet.

On Aug. 14, General Assembly Counsel Sandra Benson Brantley — who works in the office of Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh — responded to questions from legislative leadership regarding the “legality and constitutionality” of making changes to how the session is conducted during a pandemic. 

She responded in a detailed memo that changes to floor votes “involving a remote or virtual component” could risk “a successful legal challenge.”

Additionally, Dr. Tom Inglesby, the director of the Center for Health Security in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told the Joint COVID-19 Response Legislative Workgroup on Sept. 16 his concerns about gatherings for long periods of time, particularly as more activities move inside during the upcoming winter months. 

“The risk to indoor activities has not gone away,” he said, mentioning a recent CDC report finding indoor dining remained a high risk factor for contracting COVID-19. 

According to the report, “Adults with positive (COVID-19) test results were approximately twice as likely to have reported dining at a restaurant than were those with negative (COVID-19) test results.”

Researchers noted restricted airflow was also a factor in transmission “even if social distancing measures and mask use are implemented according to current guidance.”

During last week’s special session demonstration, Jones told the crowd she was concerned about legislators at higher risk for contracting the disease, but still signalled an intent to reconvene as scheduled Jan. 13. 

However, questions remain as to how the session will be safely conducted, how votes will be counted so as to withstand legal challenges, and what precautions will be in place that were not available in either March, May or even now. 

While Ferguson’s and Jones’s offices stated by email that they were not ready to comment on preparations at this time, not every legislator is convinced that an outdoor special session, while the weather is still agreeable, is not a reasonable option. 

Delegates Gabriel Acevero, D-Montgomery, and Julian Ivey, D-Prince George’s, spoke during last week’s demonstration in support of convening a special session. 

“For 83 days I have been highlighting victims of police brutality and calling for a special session so that we can address that issue specifically,” Ivey told CNS during the protest. “Just like our essential workers are working, I believe legislators are essential and we should be doing our job that we were constitutionally elected to do.” 

Similarly, Acevero stated it was important for legislators to find a way to return to work during the crisis and address pressing issues such as police reform, health disparities and rent relief. 

“I support a special session for us to address the economic and health crises that this pandemic has created,” Acevero told CNS. “And to support working families who during this time are not only vulnerable but in desperate need of relief.”

“The only way we’re going to do that,” he added. “Is if we actually show up and if we legislate.” 

Weekly Sting Roundup: 28 September 2020

Some weeks are slow news weeks. I don’t think we’ve had a slow news week in 2020. The past week is no exception.

Each week, members of The Sting’s editorial team put together a “synopsis” of what happened in the week prior, including local and national headlines, as well as goings-on around campus.

Got something that should be in the Weekly Roundup? Let us know by shooting us an email here with “Weekly Roundup” in the subject line.

Now onto the news –

National

Trump’s Tax Returns Finally Released

Perhaps the biggest story of the week came yesterday, when The New York Times revealed that President Donald Trump only paid taxes in five of the last 15 years. In 2016, he paid just $750 to the IRS.

Since his candidacy announcement in 2015, Trump has been quite adamant about keeping his financial records private. Critics of Trump say these newly-released documents will hurt his standing with many working-class Republicans with the presidential election just over a month away.

Amy Coney Barrett Nominated to Supreme Court

On Saturday, President Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett, a circuit judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, to succeed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the US Supreme Court.

The nomination of Barrett was expected, with many media outlets breaking the news on Friday. Barrett is likely to pass the Senate confirmation process easily. If confirmed, Barrett will be President Trump’s third SCOTUS nominee in just his first term.

A staunch conservative, Barrett would give the Supreme Court a 6-3 conservative majority, potentially putting LGBT rights, Roe v. Wade and the Affordable Care Act in jeopardy, though The Sting editor-in-chief Leonard Robinson believes that Justices Roberts and Gorsuch will side with liberals on these issues.

Local

Coronavirus in Maryland

Maryland’s coronavirus numbers showed significant improvement over the past week, with the Maryland Department of Health reporting a record low positivity rate of 2.5% for the first time. Johns Hopkins, who calculates the positivity rate with a different formula, saw their percentage dip below 5% as well. This comes roughly three weeks after Governor Larry Hogan further loosened restrictions on businesses, moving into stage 3 of the Maryland Strong: Roadmap to Recovery.

The Hapless Orioles Aren’t So Hapless Anymore.

The Baltimore Orioles finished up their shortened season last night with a 7-5 victory over the Blue Jays last night. Baseball was one of the first sports to return in the COVID-era, and the Orioles were expected to finish in dead last following disappointing performances over the past two seasons. Somehow, the Orioles managed to finish in fourth place in the American League East with a somewhat respectable 25-35 record on the 60-game season.

From The Sting

Supreme Court fiasco brings important lesson for us all

Editor-in-chief Leonard Robinson wrote an excellent piece memorializing the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and analyzing the SCOTUS confirmation and court battles ahead. As mentioned above, Robinson writes that the crisis we now find ourselves in is a result of years of hypocrisy by both major political parties.

UB Hires New VP of Enrollment, Roxie Shabazz

Staff writer Kopper Boyd gave some insight on UB’s new Vice-President of Enrollment, including her background and what she brings to the table. Coming from the University of Hawai’i, Roxie Shabazz is looking forward to helping UB improve, with the pandemic threatening to hurt schools’ enrollment for years to come.

Tony Sheaffer is managing editor for The Sting.

UB students memorialize John Lewis

John Lewis, then an organizer of the Student Nonviolence Coordinating Committee, after being arrested in Nashville, Tennessee during civil rights demonstrations.
Photo courtesy of the University of Baltimore History Club.

Longtime U.S. Representative and civil rights legend John Lewis (D-GA) passed away on Saturday, July 18 at the age of 80.

Days before his passing, Lewis penned an essay for the New York Times titled, “Together, You Can Redeem the Soul of Our Nation”.

UB students took a step in that direction last night by memorializing Lewis’ legacy in an event commemorating his involvement with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and reflecting on the impact that the organization had on his life and career.

Judy Richardson and Betty Robinson, two veterans of the SNCC, reflected on Lewis, their time as student organizers, and how the experience shaped all of them.

Over 80 students attended the virtual event sponsored by the History Club.

“We appreciate the students of the University of Baltimore for coming out to our event last night to honor the memory and legacy of the late Congressman John Lewis,” said Abraham Rodriguez, president of the History Club. “We will be providing engaging events on a variety of topics for the remainder of this semester.”

A recording of the event is available here.

Weekly Sting Roundup: Welcome Back!

Welcome Week promotional.
Courtesy: Center for Student Involvement

Welcome back UB!

Also, thanks for reading the first Weekly Roundup. At the top of Monday mornings, various members of The Sting editorial team will produce a weekly roundup of The Sting articles, breaking news, events, and other information.

Got something that should be in the Weekly Roundup? Let us know by shooting us an email here with “Weekly Roundup” in the subject line.

As a heads up, this week’s roundup is shorter than most because humans actually produce it. More importantly, these humans are students like you and need adjustment time too.

Hope everyone had a relaxing first day and best of luck in the semester ahead.

LR


Campus

As you have probably noticed, the UB Post no longer exists. We are now The Sting and are open to reporters, editorial writers, and copy editors. Interested? Be sure to look here for more details and to apply.

It’s Welcome Week at UB from August 31 to September 11. Be sure to check here for info on virtual events and happenings during this time.

Looking for a job or internship? You still have time. Be sure to sign up for the virtual job and internship fair on September 2. The fair is broken into an afternoon and evening schedule.

Students are encouraged to meet their new elected campus leaders at the SGA Meet and Greet on September 8 from 5PM to 7PM.

Baltimore

Have some recycling in the city that needs to be picked up? It won’t be anytime soon. Baltimore City starting Monday is not picking up recycling as they prioritize trash pickup in the coming days and weeks.

All courts across Maryland will be open starting on Monday.

Baltimore City will soon have new cameras to issue tickets for speeding and running red lights. This places Baltimore City among other Maryland jurisdictions, like Prince George’s County, Baltimore County, and Howard County that use cameras to enforce traffic laws.

Baltimore County is literally making trash into treasure. They have an elaborate plan to convert trash into renewable energy. Read more in the Baltimore Sun.

Joanne’s Grill closed its doors over the summer. Unfortunately, UB’s declining enrollment played a small part. Read more about this in my article for the Baltimore Business Journal from back in July.

Lifestyle

People across the country remain in shock that actor Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther, 42, and Get on Up) has passed away at the age of 43 after four years of colon cancer. Here’s a moving tribute from a 7 year old boy.

With classes starting, be sure to take a look at one of the last KahnJunction column by Ben Kahn ’20 where he argues why you should still be getting dressed every day. But, he adds, the necktie can go away.

Honoring Emmett Till, House passes bill making lynching a federal hate crime

By: Bryan Gallion and Anna Hovey, Capital News Service

Rep. Bobby Bush, D-Illinois, discussing the Emmet Till Antilynching Act at a press conference – WASHINGTON
Picture Credit: Bryan Gallion, Capital News Service

WASHINGTON — The House passed a bill Wednesday to make lynching a federal hate crime. The measure was named after Emmett Till, a black 14-year-old who was murdered in Mississippi in 1955. 

The final vote was 410-4. Three Republicans and Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, who switched his affiliation from Republican to independent in July, opposed the legislation.

“This bill is too late coming, but it is never too late to do the right thing,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, said in a press conference before the vote. 

Till’s story is personal for some members of Congress like Rep. Bobby Bush, D-Illinois, who authored the bill. He represents the Chicago district where Till lived. 

The youth was visiting Mississippi when he was accused of offending a white woman in a store. Till later was seized by the woman’s husband and his half-brother. Till was tortured and murdered. His body was tied to a fan with barbed wire and thrown into the Tallahatchie River. 

The two men accused of the murder were found innocent by an all-white jury, a verdict that outraged much of the nation and galvanized the civil rights movement.  

Rush said he remembers his mother gathering his four siblings to show them the photo of Till laying in his open casket. The Rush family had moved from Georgia a year and a half before the murder.

“I’ll never forget this moment…she said, ‘This is the reason why I would not allow my boys to be raised in the South,’” Rush told reporters ahead of the vote.

Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Mississippi, said he was emotional while considering the bill because he knew Till’s mother. 

“We have to commit ourselves to make this country a better country, to try not to let it happen again,” Thompson said on the House floor.

Lynching — a “widely acknowledged practice in the United States until the middle of the 20th century,” according to the bill — was documented in all but four states. Over 4,700 people were reportedly lynched between 1882 and 1968, the bill says. Ninety-nine percent of the perpetrators weren’t punished.

“Lynching is a blot on the history of America, but the even greater blot is the silence that for too long maintained in the context of what people knew was happening,” Hoyer said.

Past acts of racism and violence can’t be erased by passing this legislation, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said, but calling them out will help the nation heal. 

“As members of Congress and as Americans, we have a responsibility to acknowledge the horrors of the past so that they can never happen or occur again,” Pelosi said on the House floor.

The latest House bill is far from the first anti-lynching legislation that Congress has considered. Almost 200 were introduced during the first half of the 20th century, and three were passed by the House between 1920 and 1940. 

Rep. George Henry White, a Democrat from North Carolina and the only black member of Congress at the time, proposed the first antilynching bill in 1900.

“I am proud of House leadership and Representative Rush…but I do have to say that we must admit it is a bit of a travesty that it has taken 120 years for the U.S. government to address this crime,” Rep. Karen Bass, D-California, who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, said in the same press conference where Hoyer and Rush spoke.

The Senate has considered such legislation before but hasn’t enacted any despite requests from civil rights groups, previous presidents and the House, the bill says. 

In 2018, the GOP-run Senate passed a bipartisan bill to make lynching a civil rights violation — proposed by Sens. Kamala Harris, D-California; Cory Booker, D-New Jersey and Tim Scott, R-South Carolina — but it failed to pass in the then-Republican controlled House. It passed in the Senate again last year. 

“Lynchings were horrendous, racist acts of violence,” Harris said in a statement. “For far too long Congress has failed to take a moral stand and pass a bill to finally make lynching a federal crime…This justice is long overdue.” 

The Senate is expected to vote on the bill by Friday, before the end of Black History Month. When asked if President Donald Trump is expected to sign it into law, Bass asked, “How could he not?”