On Tuesday morning, there were often more police and city workers than voters at Edmondson-Westside High School in Baltimore.
The high school was one of three sites where voters could vote in person in a special election to decide who would complete the remaining eight months of the term for Maryland’s late Democratic MP, Elijah E. Cummings.
Signs imploring people to keep their distance in abundance.
“Keep 6 feet at all times,” read one. “Don’t touch your face,” said another. “Especially the eyes, the nose and the mouth. Another pleaded, “For your safety and comfort, please wear a MASK or face mask beyond this point.” “
As voters entered the room to vote, a volunteer sprayed his hands with hand sanitizer. All the volunteers wore masks and face shields.
One sprayed each polling station with disinfectant after use. Nearly 80 people voted at 9:00 am, officials said, which was slower than usual. But it was clear that nothing of this day was usual.
“I’m taking a risk – my wife is crazy like anything,” said 72-year-old teller Chuck Linton. “I try to protect myself as much as possible.”
Linton, a retired Vietnam veteran, wore gloves and a mask and said he was trying to stay separate from voters and volunteers. But he said he wanted the city to put in place a way to screen voters before entering high school, and possibly also a test site. He said such measures would have been particularly welcome, given the grim reports that African-Americans are disproportionately affected by the virus.
“This whole neighborhood is African American,” he said. “The most important thing is security. The election is almost secondary. “
Entering the school, where he said he imagined that at least one person was positive for coronavirus, you feel “like you are entering an oven”. But Linton decided to go out because he wanted to make sure the election was fair. He sent out his ballot for Republican candidate Kimberly Klacick because he wants to see the change and was upset by the allegations of sexual harassment against the Democratic candidate Kweisi Mfume, who is favored in the highly democratic district.
Prudence Johnson, president of the United Democratic Women of Maryland, said that she had received her mail-in ballot but decided to vote in person because of the challenges that African-Americans have always faced.
“This way I make sure my vote is counted,” said Johnson, 42, who otherwise would not have gone outside at all. “Nothing would have stopped me. “
She declined to say who she voted for, but said, “I am a good democrat.”
Shanita Love, who works for Baltimore City, said she was impressed with the actions of the volunteers, who she said even sprayed her new gloves when she entered to vote. “I am worried,” she said of the coronavirus. “I’m not going to let my vote count. “
She said she received her mail-in ballot but lives nearby and decided that voting in person would be easier.
Thiru Vignarajah, a Democrat vying for the June 2 primary, said he came to Edmondson to thank voters for coming. He said after seeing the lines at polling stations across the country, he thought turnout could have been higher. But he said he hoped the shortage of lines on Tuesday would mean the postal system worked efficiently.
“Even in strange times, people want to help shape the legacy of our great congressman,” he said of Cummings.