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Voter Education: How to Vote Right Now

Posted on September 17th, 2020 by

We’ve already talked a lot about voting in our Voter Education blog posts. We’ve covered voting rights in Maryland and how to educate yourself as a voter, providing resources so that you can make informed decisions and let your voice be heard. We’ve also talked about how to request a mail-in ballot and why mail-in ballots are just as accurate, and much more accessible, as voting at a polling place. As we get closer and closer to election day, we want to remind our community that voting makes you an Upstander. You are not standing by and acting passive during this time of extreme climate change, a global pandemic, and human rights violations. You have the right to choose who leads us during these crises, and what direction you want our world to move towards.

Of course,  as we’ve mentioned before, voter suppression is a real threat to many people, especially those who are people of color, living in poverty, or living in rural areas. Voter suppression is a huge issue that affects many and is a systemic issue that will take a huge amount of time and effort to fix. You can help fight this threat by helping others to register to vote, to request their mail-in ballots early, and to help them drop their ballots off to a polling center. You can also work with voter rights groups as they provide resources and volunteer to ensure that everyone accesses their right to vote. While these steps may seem small, they are still incredibly important.

As far as your own mail-in ballot goes, we encourage every Maryland voter to request their mail-in ballot today. In fact, right now, follow these steps to request your ballot:

1. Go to the Maryland Board of Elections webpage on mail-in voting.

2. Click on “How do I request a mail-in ballot?”

3. If you have your MD driver’s license or MVA-issued ID card, you can complete the form online using this link.

4. You can also complete and return one of the forms on the website, by mail, fax, or email. If you plan to fill out a form and mail it to your local board of elections, you should do that as soon as possible.

5. You can also go to your local board of elections to fill out and turn in a form. To find your local board of elections, you can visit this website.

Once you have filled out and returned the form, whether online, in the mail, or in person, you can check the status of your mail-in ballot by going to the Voter Lookup site. This site will ask you for your name, birthdate, and Zip Code, and then provide you with the status of your mail-in ballot application. This information is important for you to keep track of, so that you can plan accordingly.

When you do receive your mail-in ballot, follow the instructions on the ballot carefully. When you have finished completing the form, you can mail your ballot back.

However, because of the delays in the Postal Service at the moment, we strongly encourage you to hand deliver your ballot. You can do so by dropping it off at a voting location, a ballot drop off box, or your local board of elections. The mail-in voting webpage on the Maryland Board of Elections website will list these drop-off locations once the information is available. By hand delivering the ballot, you are ensuring that it will be counted in time for the election.

If that method is not available to you, however, you can still mail it. Just make sure your envelope is postmarked before November 3rd (election day). However, your ballot must be received by the local board of elections by November 13th, which is why we recommend you send it in the mail early or drop it off at a drop-off location.

Mail-in voting is safe, secure, and accurate. While these steps may seem like a lot, the Maryland Board of Elections website makes it as simple and easy as possible to request and receive your ballot. Even as the postal service faces changes and closures, both inside and outside of its control, voting by mail is an important tool for all voters in the US so that they can ensure that their voice is heard.


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Voter Education: Know Your Rights!

Posted on May 1st, 2020 by

Voting can be tricky, especially if it’s your first time voting or if you moved to a new state. Rules and regulations vary from place to place and even depending on the election. Always make sure to do your homework and figure out what you need, whether you’re voting in person or voting via absentee ballot. To get you started, we wanted to share some info about voting laws in Maryland, and the context of these regulations. If you’re from out of state, make sure to check your local Election Board for information and voter education websites to figure out what you’ll need when you visit the polls.

Will I need to show my ID when I go to vote?

In Maryland, most of the time you do not need to show your ID when you vote in person or via absentee ballot, as long as your name is on the list of registered voters. There are a few exceptions, including, if you registered to vote by mail and have not previously met the ID requirements, someone in the polling place challenges your identity, or if you are registering to vote or changing your address during early voting. In Maryland, the following can be used as valid ID:

A Maryland driver’s license or another MVA form of ID

A student ID card that has a photo

An employee ID card that has a photo

A passport or another government-issued ID

Or a utility bill, bank statement, government check, or paycheck that shows your name and address and is less than 3 months old. This option is only if you don’t have the other forms.

A driver’s license might be a common form of ID, but not all people have access to it or another MVA-issued ID.

If you are showing ID because you are voting for the first time, your name and address on the document must match the information on the voter registration roll. If you don’t have any of these forms of ID on you when you’re at the polling place, don’t worry! You can still vote using a provisional ballot.

Provisional ballots allow people to vote at a polling place even if they’re not on the list of registered voters. As long as the board of elections is able to verify the identity of the person who filled out the provisional ballot, the vote will be counted. If you’re filling out the provisional ballot because you didn’t have ID available at the time of voting, simply bring any form of ID to the local election board.

There are other reasons someone may be asked to fill out a provisional ballot instead of a regular ballot, but as long as you are verified by the election board, your vote counts, regardless of the type of ballot. If you need help with verifying your provisional ballot, contact your election board.

Voter ID laws vary from state to state, but numerous studies have shown that these laws do not actually prevent voter fraud and instead cause voter suppression. Accessing a photo ID requires money and often travel, especially in rural areas, and so Voter ID laws disproportionately affect low-income and minority people. To learn more about Voter ID laws, check out this fact sheet from the ACLU.

What do I do at the polling place?

If this is your first-time voting in person, make sure you follow these guidelines, to ensure that your vote is counted:

Bring a form of ID. As we mentioned above, people voting for the first time in MD will be asked to provide a form of ID.

Do not use your cellphone, cameras, or other computer devices while at the polling place. For privacy and security, keep your cell phone put away until after you leave.

You can bring any materials to help you vote. That includes a sample ballot (such as the ones from the Board of Elections) and any other materials that helped you to make up your mind.

You can bring up to two children with you to vote, as long as they are not disrupting voting procedures. Taking kids to vote is a great way to show them the election process and help educate them on their voting rights!

You can wear politically-themed clothing, such as buttons and t-shirts, but you cannot discuss your vote with others at the polling place.

Once you vote, you must leave immediately.

If you need proof that voted, such as for your employer, you can ask the election judge for a Certificate of Participation.

If you are still in line when the polls close, stay in line! You have the right to vote if you are still in line and you cannot be turned away while waiting.

T-shirts, like this one that Deborah Cardin wore as a child, are fine to wear. Just don’t try to pressure people to vote for your dad! JMM 2013.005.001

And make sure to get your “I Voted” sticker to display proudly for the rest of the day!

If I was convicted of a crime, do I have a right to vote?

In Maryland, if you are serving time for committing a felony, you will not be able to vote. However, once you have finished your sentence, your right to vote is automatically returned to you. This rule varies greatly from state to state, ranging from people being able to vote while serving their sentences to those who permanently lose their right to vote because of the crime they committed. (Note that certain crimes, such as buying or selling votes, may cause a permanent loss of voting rights, no matter the state). Disenfranchising people permanently leads to a large proportion of our population to be excluded from participating in our democratic processes. By signaling to people, who are trying to reenter society and reestablish themselves, that their voice doesn’t matter, it makes it harder for them to find security and success.

Image from the Brennan Center, illustration by Doug Smith.

To find out more about this issue, visit the Brennan Center for Justice’s website about voter restoration laws.


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Be an Upstander: Sadie Jacobs Crockin

Posted on April 24th, 2020 by

Last week, we shared our newly online The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen exhibit, which allows us to revisit the story of this extraordinary Baltimorean with even more people. Inspired by this exhibit, and by the ongoing theme of voter education, I wanted to return to the story of Sadie Jacobs Crockin.

Photograph portrait of Sadie Jacobs, taken in the late 1890s. Sadie Jacobs Crockin Collection, JMM 1996.21.9b.

JMM featured Crockin back in 2010, in a pop-up exhibit in our lobby called VOTE! The Life and Work of Sadie Jacobs Crockin, to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the League of Women Voters. This exhibit went on to travel to various local organizations as a part of the celebrations. It’s fitting to revisit Sadie and her story today, as we celebrate the 100th year anniversary of the League, as well as women’s right to vote, with the ratification of the nineteenth amendment in 1920. And we’ll be celebrating later this year with a new exhibit dedicated to her life! While we don’t have an entire website available as a resource about the exhibit, I wanted to share the central story of Crockin’s life, and some ways we can honor her work and the work of women as they fought for their right to choose their leaders.

Sadie Jacobs was born in Baltimore in 1879 and grew up in Virginia, where she also attended college at Randolph-Macon College. She joined the first generation of women to attend college in the US, and she clearly made her mark during her time there. She was even awarded “Best Address” for her graduation speech, for which she received this gold medallion.

Gold medallion, 1898, courtesy of Arthur C. and Sally T. Grant, JMM 2010.14.24.

Clearly, Sadie had a talent for speaking and leading people. She returned to Baltimore after marrying Emil Crockin and lived on Park Heights Avenue until he passed in 1943. Thanks to Emil’s success as a clothing manufacturer, eventually becoming the owner of Wearwell Clothing Company, Sadie had the freedom and ability to pursue her own interests in education and philanthropy and was especially interested in helping immigrants to adapt to American life. She even taught night classes in English as a second language for immigrant women, much like Henrietta Szold. Indeed, over the course of Crockin’s life, she and Szold were friendly enough that Szold sent her a telegram, wishing her happiness upon the occasion of her daughter’s marriage.

This telegram was sent on June 22, 1927, to wish Emil and Sadie happiness for the marriage of their daughter, Frieda. JMM 2011.2.1.

Crockin even helped to form the Baltimore Chapter of Hadassah, of which the national organization Szold created, and served as President for its first 15 years. Her skills in leadership and public speaking lent themselves to this role, and she was a defining character in the development of the Baltimore Hadassah Chapter, which is still going strong today. During the VOTE! exhibit we featured some of Sadie’s belongings from this time, such as a notebook she used to draft speeches and keep meeting agendas.

Notebook, c.1915, courtesy of Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Baltimore Chapter.

Crockin was also elected to represent Baltimore at the first American Jewish Congress, in 1918. She gave an oral report on the event, and her experience speaks to her intelligence and curiosity, as she talked about the diversity of the delegates and the historical proceedings. And her position as a leader in the community is demonstrated by her role in attending.

Crockin’s report on the American Jewish Congress, 1918, courtesy of Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Baltimore Chapter.

Beyond her work in Hadassah, Sadie saw the importance of teaching people about their civic duty: voting. With the passage of the nineteenth amendment, suffragist leaders organized the League of Women Voters (or LWV), to encourage women to vote and to educate them before they stepped into the ballot box. Crockin was inspired by the first League President, Maud Wood Park, when Crockin attended an address of hers. Crockin decided to step forward to lead the Baltimore chapter of the League, despite her other various responsibilities.

LVW is very active today, helping everyone to access their voting rights and learn about their current elections.

LWV Baltimore is still very active, working to inform people of their voting rights, and engages in advocacy over public policy legislation. It’s clear that Sadie’s leadership has had an impact on the organization, as they continue to work towards education and helping others. During her time serving as president, LWV regularly recognized how important Crockin was to the organization, including when she retired from her role in 1930.

Sadie Jacobs Crockin was presented with this beautiful silver bowl at her retirement from the LWV Baltimore Presidency, in 1930. Silver presentation bowl, courtesy of Arthur C. and Sally T. Grant, JMM 2010.14.24.

Throughout her life, Sadie continued her advocacy work, always focused on helping others to find education and dignity. Her legacy continues today, as we plan to display another exhibit about her life this year, curated by our Director of Programs and Visitor Services, Trillion Attwood. Stay on the lookout for the opening dates!

In the meantime, help us honor Sadie’s life and work by practicing your own civic duty. Make sure you vote in any upcoming elections, such as the Baltimore Mayor and Special Maryland District 7 elections. Check your State Board of Elections for more information about upcoming elections, and visit our previous blog post to learn how to educate yourself before you step into the booth.

We thank Sadie Jacobs Crockin, and all the women who worked to ensure that women have the right to vote. We also recognize all the people who continue to work today, to ensure that our rights are not taken from us.


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