Be An Upstander: The Race for Baltimore’s Mayor

Posted on April 10, 2020 by

Welcome back to our voter education series! As we discussed last week, voting is an incredibly important civic duty and a great way to be an Upstander.

Your Vote Makes a Difference. Poster from the League of Women Voters, 1965-1980. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Choosing a leader to represent you is just as important in times of crisis and doubt, as your choice reflects how you want people to respond to such crises With this year bringing a presidential election there will likely be a much higher voter turnout in November, as people determine the presidential race. This pattern is not unusual, as local and midterm elections frequently have a lower voter turnout rate. For more stats about voter turnout, visit Fair Vote’s webpage which has a quick introduction to US elections and our traditionally low voter turnout rate.

This low turnout rate is especially true for local elections, which I would argue can be even more impactful for a person’s day-to-day than national, presidential elections. This year, in fact, Baltimore and Maryland has quite a few races that will affect local politics and even national ones. These include Congressional District races, Baltimore City Council President race, City Council positions, City Comptroller, the Mayoral race, and more. To find out which races will be on your ballot, check out vote411.org. And even if you’re not in Maryland, I encourage you to inform yourself about what’s coming up in your own local elections. This is the time to communicate to our leaders who we want to guide us through extraordinary situations, such as a global pandemic, and that includes our local leaders in addition to our national ones.

Over the course of this series, we’ll focus on just a couple of these races at a time, to learn why they are on the ballot and about the positions’ responsibilities. Today, let’s start with the special Maryland Congressional District 7 election and Baltimore Mayor race.

To start with the basics, US Congress is made up of 435 voting representatives from all 50 states, based on population as measured by the US Census.

(By the way, have you completed your census form? Make sure to do so, here). The House passes federal legislation, along with the Senate. The House also has the power to initiate bills related to revenue, impeach federal officers, and can even elect a president, if no candidates receive the majority of votes in the Electoral College, though this is a rare occurance. In addition, the presiding officer is the speaker of the House, has major influence in national politics, and is second in the presidential line of succession.

Notably, US House Representatives serve two-year terms, which means that they have to stand for election or re-election quite often. This system presses representatives to form a close relationship with the community they represent. This specific position, representing Maryland’s 7th Congressional District, which includes parts of Baltimore City, Baltimore County, and Howard County, became vacant when Congressman Elijah Cummings passed in October 2019. Governor Hogan was obligated by state law to fill this vacancy, and so he called a special election to fill the position. However, it’s important for voters to know that this position is up for re-election this year, so the person who is elected in the special election may be voted out again in November.

The special primary election took place on February 4, 2020.

This primary decided that Democrat Kweisi Mfume and Republican Kim Klacik will be competing in the special general election. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the special general election will be conducted exclusively through mail-in ballots, by April 28th. There will be no in-person voting for this election. If you live in the 7th Congressional District, the ballot will be mailed to you very soon, in early April, and the envelope will already have postage on it. All voters have to do is vote, sign an oath, and return the voted ballot by mail. Make sure your ballot is postmarked on or before April 28, 2020.

Remember, this position will up for election again in November, and voters will not be limited to the two candidates that won the special primary. You can vote for different candidates each time, if you so choose.

Another major election coming up is the Baltimore City Mayoral election.

This election was postponed to June 2, 2020, per Governor Hogan’s orders. So far, this election is planned be held in person, but as we learned last week, any registered voter in Maryland can vote via absentee ballot. The Mayor is responsible for enforcing city laws, approving or vetoing bills and other decisions passed by the Baltimore City Council, oversees all city services, and works with the Maryland Governor, who right now is Governor Larry Hogan, on caring for the public school system within city limits. If you are a resident of Baltimore City, the Mayor is an important figure to know and elect, as they help to shape the way the city is run and the priorities of the city.

Right now, Bernard C. “Jack” Young is serving as Mayor, having stepped up last year after former mayor Catherine Pugh resigned in May, owing to a scandal involving her abusing her political position to sell children’s books. Mayor Young is running for re-election, along with many other candidates, including former Mayor Shelia Dixon. Current City Council President Brandon M. Scott and State Senator Mary Washington also number among candidates up for election this year. I encourage you to read up on all the candidates and do your research, because this position is so influential on the Baltimore community.

Armed with new information, we hope that you feel confident as you vote, whether in person or by mail, in your own local elections. Your voice counts a lot in these elections, as the difference between local candidates can come down to a difference of a few hundred or even tens of votes. We’ll continue discussing local elections, in addition to general voter education and wider national and international elections, so stay tuned!


 

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