Voters in West Baltimore’s Bridgeview/Greenlawn neighborhood who showed up ready to cast their ballots at Friendship Preparatory Academy at Calverton were redirected to a school around the corner, despite sample ballots sent to them in May that listed Friendship as their polling place.
Signs on the school’s main doors at 1100 Whitmore Ave. notified voters that the polling place had been moved to nearby James Mosher Elementary School. But at about 11 a.m. there were no signs on the side doors, where voters have entered on past Election Days. Friendship Academy — previously Calverton Elementary/Middle School — has been closed since early January, when cold weather caused plumbing and heating problems. Students were relocated to another building in February to finish the school year.
“There’s obviously some type of disconnect between the Baltimore City Public Schools system as well as our Board of Elections, and the community wasn’t notified,” said Del. Antonio Hayes, who is running for state senate. Hayes held a small news conference outside Friendship Preparatory Academy on Tuesday morning to encourage local residents to vote at James Mosher Elementary School instead.
Several voters at James Mosher, which housed voting for two precincts, said they were not notified of the change until Tuesday. They said the lack of communication about the move was especially troubling given the high number of senior citizens who live in the neighborhood.
“We have seniors that don’t necessarily have cars, and this is how you treat them?” said Pam Ranberg, a 68-year-old Democrat. “We’ve been bombarded all week with robo-calls about who to vote for. I think our dear mayor maybe needed to take a minute from getting on Facebook bragging about what she’s doing and have sent a message so that the seniors around here would have got some better service.”
Linwood Woody, a 65-year-old Democrat, said he didn’t find out about the polling place relocation until he came to Friendship Preparatory Academy ready to vote. People outside the building told him to go to the elementary school around the corner, he said.
“I’m totally stunned really,” he said. “I think they should have people walking the neighborhood and telling people where the polling place for this general area is.”
By about 11:30 a.m., 85 voters had cast ballots between the two precincts at James Mosher. Hayes said the polling place in past elections has drawn 300 to 400 voters. Armstead Jones, election director for the Baltimore City Board of Elections, could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.
— Sarah Meehan, Baltimore Sun
Democrat Jason Leaseburg, 36, of Hollins Market, said in front of his polling place at James McHenry Elementary School that he wanted to vote for progressive candidates who will stand up to the federal government and "the harm" that he said it's doing.
The governor's race is the most important for Leaseburg, who supported Ben Jealous because he thinks Jealous has the best chance to defeat Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in November.
-- Nick Bogel-Burroughs, Baltimore Sun
Issues of crime, vacant houses bring voters to the polls
Roberta Pinckney, 72, voted at the Herring Run Branch Library in Orchard Ridge with her brother, Chakka McKnight, 56, and said reducing crime was what brought her to the polling booth.
Pinckney said she was particularly focused on the state's attorney and state senate races, but wanted to keep who she voted for to herself.
She said she hoped the candidates she voted for will "make an effort to make things better and make this city a better place." She is frustrated by Baltimore's reputation as a city with a lot of crime.
Pinckney moved to Orchard Ridge more than 15 years ago to take care of her mother and said it has gotten more dangerous since then. She said young people are moving to the community and "bringing crime with them."
"It's gotten worse," she said. "Not only in this area but all over. It shouldn't be this way."
Also at Herring Run Branch Library, Mark McCoy, 48, of Baltimore said an issue "near and dear to my heart" is urban renewal and the creation of affordable housing.
He said he hoped the candidates he voted for would repurpose vacant homes.
"We have too many abandoned houses that need to be fixed up and rented out to lower-income families," he said.
He said the state's attorney race was important to him but declined to say who he voted for.
-- Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, The Baltimore Sun