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Campaign 2018

Politicsby Fern Shen1:34 pmOct 24, 20180

With early voting starting tomorrow, races to watch, info you’ll need

For eight days ahead of the November 6 election, Baltimore voters will be able to cast their ballots

Above: The first and last day of early voting typically see the longest waits, Baltimore officials say. (Mark Reutter)

If your mind’s really made up, go ahead and do it – early voting for Maryland’s election starts tomorrow.

Here are a few thoughts to get your wheels turning:

In Baltimore, you can cast your ballot at one of the city’s seven early voting centers, which will be open for eight days (October 25-November 1) ahead of the November 6 election day.

Polls will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day, including Saturday and Sunday.

Not yet registered? If you’re eligible, you can register at the early voting centers and cast your vote there on the same day. Just bring some ID, such as a driver’s license, a change of address card or documents like a bank statement or utility bill that lists your address.

Plug in your name here to find out if you are registered, where you vote and other useful information.

What’s at Stake?

At the top of the ticket, there are the races for governor, attorney general and the U.S. Senate and House.

Will blue state Maryland opt for another four years of Republican Governor Larry Hogan or choose Democrat Ben Jealous, the venture capitalist and former NAACP president?

After months of hearing Hogan call Jealous too radical (“he’s too extreme for Maryland”) and Jealous calling Hogan a faux moderate (“he’s the second coming of Chris Christie”), voters will at last have the final say.

Whoever they choose, the next governor will have four years of influence over education funding, big-ticket transportation projects, environmental regulation, criminal justice issues and more.

Also up for grabs are seats in the Maryland General Assembly. You’ll be able to vote for one Senate candidate and as many as three candidates for the House of Delegates.

A “Green” Breakthrough?

In overwhelmingly Democratic Baltimore, the June primary winners are generally treated like the de facto winners of the whole thing.

But remember there are Republicans, Independents and Green Party candidates in many races who have been campaigning to woo voters in the general election.

Green Party supporters have been especially explicit about which Democrat they hope to bump out.

In the 40th District House race, they have put forward Joshua Harris, the former Green Party mayoral candidate, over Del. Frank M. Conaway Jr.

Conaway has made headlines for his odd videos and a 2017 bill that would have required Baltimore police to put up signs denoting “high crime” and “stop-and-frisk” zones in the city.

In the 41st, the Greens are pushing physician Drew A. Pate over assistant state’s attorney Dalya Attar, citing her law-and-order messaging and use of a former state Republican Party strategist to craft her mailings.

In the 43rd, activist Bonnie “Raven” Lane makes robust use of the #MeToo hashtag as she asks voters to choose her over Del. Curt Anderson, who was stripped of his leadership positions after allegations of sexual misconduct.

Another spirited battle has been playing out in the 45th District, where Steven “Andy” Ellis, a former city schools debate coach, and Glenn L. Ross, a community activist known for his “toxic tours” of East Baltimore, are running together on the Green Party ticket.

They’re gunning for incumbent delegates Cheryl D. Glenn and Talmadge Branch, differentiating themselves on a number of issues, including whether to arm city school police. (Glenn and Branch support doing so.)

A Bevy of Ballot Questions

Baltimore City voters are also being asked to sign off on everything from bonding authority for library and firehouse construction to how affordable housing is funded.

If you can get over to the Maryland Institute College of Art tonight, there’s a forum on the ballot questions, sponsored by Represent Maryland. (It’s at 6:30 p.m. at MICA’s Fred Lazarus IV Center at 131 West North Avenue in Baltimore.)

There also are a number of places to read simple explanations of these ballot questions, including the League of Women Voters 2018 Voters Guide (starting at page 15) and the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland guide to the ballot questions.

One guide on Facebook, put together by public-spirited citizen Stefanie Mavronis, was considered so good it was retweeted by the city Board of Elections. Borrowing from its language, here’s the list:

QUESTION 1 – “Would require gambling revenues to add to public school funding rather than be used as a substitute for state education funding starting in 2020.”

This is the so-called casino “lock-box” amendment addressing the fatal flaw obscured by lawmakers and gambling interests in their presentation of the 2008 ballot measure approving casino gambling in Maryland, which they implied would mean a boost in funding for schools. Rather than a “slots for tots” measure, it basically allowed the gambling revenue to just go into the General Fund.

QUESTION 2 – “Would allow anyone who meets requirements to vote on Election Day at their precinct polling location. . . Currently Maryland requires individuals to register 21 days before Election Day. The state already allows individuals to register at their polling places during Early Voting.”

QUESTION A – “Would allow the Mayor and City Council to issue a $10 million bond to fund the Affordable Housing Trust Fund.”

The money could be used to acquire more units of affordable housing, preserve existing affordable housing and provide housing counseling, rental assistance and project financing. The initiative would supplement funds from a new excise tax on $1 million-and-higher property transfers.

QUESTION B – “Would allow the Mayor and City Council to issue a $38 million bond for new school construction, public school renovation and modernization.”

This funding addresses needs not covered by the 21st Century Schools Initiative for City Schools.

QUESTION C – “Would allow the Mayor and City Council to issue a $47 million bond for community and economic revitalization.”

City officials have said they hope to use the money for blight reduction, home ownership incentives and the like.

QUESTION D – “Would allow the Mayor and City Council to issue a $65 million bond to acquire and develop property owned by the city and the Enoch Pratt Free Library. The funding could also be used to fund improvements to city courthouses, offices and fire stations.”

QUESTION E – “Would keep Baltimore City’s water and sewer systems public instead of turning over control to private corporations.”

The Brew has previously reported on this issue, including  here and here.

QUESTION F – “Would create an Independent Office of the Inspector General and set a term limit for six years.”

As The Brew has reported, charged with rooting out waste, fraud and abuse in city government, the IG has been hampered by the fact that he or she is currently appointed by – and serves at the pleasure of – the mayor.

QUESTION G – “Would make the director of the Department of Legislative Reference the head of that department. When the Director position is vacant, this measure would create a three-member board to solicit, interview and recommend candidates for the director position.”  (This one makes a key office less independent and brings it more under the authority of the Mayor and Council President. Go here to read our piece on it.)

QUESTION H – “Would establish a Fair Election Fund, which would be used to create, a public financing option for campaigns for elected office in Baltimore  City.”

Intended to limit the power of big money and special interests in city elections, this fund would be the responsibility of an independent commission charged with identifying resources and  administering the fund.

QUESTION I – “Would create an Equity Assistance Fund to support efforts to reduce racial, gender and economic inequity in Baltimore, from addressing past disparities in capital budget spending to providing equitable access to housing and education.”

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