This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
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Follow Up – Governor What is Going on Here?
The Special Election for Maryland District 07 scheduled to fill the seat of the late Elijah Cummings for US House of Representatives, has taken a series of curious turns the last few weeks. The seat is in an extremely Democratic district (+28). They have not elected a Republican candidate in over 50 years. As special elections go, this was going to be a ho-hum. That recently changed.
On March 16, 2020 Governor Larry Hogan’s (R) executive order stated primaries would be held in June and the House Special Election will be on April 28th. Hogan restricted both to mail-in only voting. He reminded residents, “We are telling you, unless you have an essential reason to leave your house: stay in your home.” Hogan ordered gyms, movie theaters, and restaurant dining rooms closed.
In a Democrat +28 District…Why All the Fuss?
The Board of Elections’ decision for mail-in only voting was disruptive to the Kweisi Mfume campaign. Immediately, they began protesting the ruling and petitioning the Maryland State Board of Elections (BOE) to allow in-person voting. The Mfume team is claiming this is not effective for their campaign; people voting for him are older and need assistance. The ACLU sent a letter specifically noting those disenfranchised by mail-In voting would be poor blacks and the disabled (The ALCU also has endorsed the Mfume Campaign in this race).
Klacik agrees mail-in voting is not a perfect recipe; she has similar concerns. Klacik focuses on possible ballot harvesting and other issues. However, she has made the safety of the voters and pollsters her primary concern. Klacik expressed her concerns to me, “It all comes down to safety. Why does Mfume want to bring out the elderly and disabled, the most vulnerable to the virus? Just to stand in a line for an election? We already have a solution: mail-in voting. Why is Mfume pushing for in-person voting? How does that help the people we represent?”
Board of Elections Meeting on March 26: In-Person Only Elections
At the BOE meeting on March 26th, the Board overruled Mfume’s objections. They acknowledged they could not adequately protect citizens with live voting conditions. They were citing inadequate face gear, protective gloves, and social distancing requirements in Governor Hogan’s executive order as examples.
The official ruling released two days later on March 28th reiterated the election would continue as mail-in only. Just two days later, on March 30th, Governor Hogan ordered a statewide executive order for Maryland to shelter in place. The BOE decision should have ended any further debate about the voting process in this election. Mfume, however, has been adamant about overturning it.
Kim Klacik’s Election Push Draws Nationwide Attention
Klacik’s tenacity and love for her fellow residents did not deter her from running for the MD-07 seat. “Whether I am a Republican or Democrat should not matter to my district. This is my community and my home! These are my neighbors and friends.” She has said on several occasions. “People know me here, and they know I am standing up for them.” Klacik can be seen daily out in the district visiting with residents helping them one by one, with special attention. She has a special relationship with the people in her district. While Mfume lives in the district, his impact, and connection has been limited.
With her own non-profit, Klacik provides a community outreach and jobs program affecting and helping people in Baltimore. “I was already working with people in Baltimore to enhance their lives, either through training for a better job or to get a better education. My commitment is not just because of an election. I have always been here rolling up my sleeves and working”
Kim Klacik wanted to up the ante, and bring her can-do attitude to Washington DC. “I was planning to run for the seat in November. Unexpectedly, the timetable moved up with the untimely death of Rep Cummings.
Can Anyone Explain What Happened Next?
On April 3rd (Good Friday), Governor Hogan ordered the BOE to give him a reason by Monday, April 6th, why they could not safely enact in-person voting. The executive order during a holiday weekend allowed no time to perform adequate research. Also, no one was paying attention. After calling the meeting to order, the session adjourned into a private conference for 50 minutes. The agenda noted the silence. To discuss legal issues.”
At Minute 51, one BOE member comments, “the vote is at the urging of the Governor.”
Klacik immediately issued a tweet pointing out the statement. Shortly after her Tweet posted, the statement curiously disappeared, conspicuously missing from the posted recording. The silence moved up from Minute 50 to Minute 56. (This author heard the statement. One of the members of the Klacik team obtained a recording with the missing statement). Both the Governor and LT Governor specifically noted they had nothing to do with the request for change.
Gov Hogan’s Communications Director Mike Ricci responded to me on twitter, when I asked him why this was happening. He said. I was receiving “bad information.” Also, he noted the “BOE made the decision independently.” of the Governor. Ignoring the evidence I presented to the contrary!
GOVERNOR WHY DID YOU REQUEST THE BOE MEETING?
Why did the BOE completely reverse its decision? Why would the Chairman abstain and state for the record, he was uncomfortable with the precautions for Pollsters, watchers, and the voting public?
Ricci responded when asked about the protections “steps have been taken.” Yet details have not been provided on safety precautions or gear available at the polls. Where are the materials coming from? Are there enough? Were rules issued to both teams noting the required safety precautions?. Are the campaigns briefed on how to bring voters to the Polls? Since everyone can be part of live-voting, these are important unanswered questions!
Is Governor Hogan Allowing the Most Vulnerable to be Exposed ?
Why has the Governor not explained the BOE’s decision to expose the most vulnerable citizens – elderly and those with disabilities, during the peak period for exposure? Why is the Governor exposing the anyone in the public to the consequences of the virus, when mail-In ballots have been issued and mailed, and determined to be the best route?
The Governor is in charge of this decision. He has the ability to override the BOE? Any excuse differently by the Governor is not taking accountability for this decision. Hogan requires that all the people of Maryland abstain from their constitutional rights to religion and assembly. Hogan’s executive order prevents Marylanders from going to work or shop in stores. They cannot attend, churches, or assemble in parks and public places. Why is he allowing this to continue?
What safety precautions are in progress to protect people voting on April 28th? What is the procedure for a voter who does not have a mask when they arrive for a live vote? Will protections be made for voters while they are waiting in line? Will the BOE discourage both campaigns from hiring buses to bring voters to the polling locations? These are important details Ricci has not answered on behalf of the Governor.
After the BOE vote, Mfume was directly notified of the change, while the Klacik was not notified directly, but in a tweet by a Baltimore Sun reporter. Did the BOE purposely keep Klacik in the dark? What happened to the missing six minutes?
Is this a Fair Election?
MD-07 is part of three areas Baltimore City, Baltimore County, and Howard County. A voter in Howard County must travel to the Howard County Fairground, even if they are closer to Martin’s West.
There is a short 19-mile distance between the three locations And five miles between two voting locations (Martins West and the Western Skill center). This area concentrates most of the inner-city voters of the MD-07 District. Most of the northwestern or northeastern voters of MD-07 are more than 30- 39 miles or an hour to 1.5 hours of travel time from Northeastern Baltimore county to polling location. Unfortunately, there is no direct route from the northeastern part of Baltimore county to the Martin’s West location.
The only voters that will be adequately served in MD-07 are voters specifically within the 19-mile range shown in the three locations within the red dots. The distance between Martins West and Western Skill center is 4.5 Miles. The Martin’s West and Howard County Fairgrounds distance is 14 Miles. The distance between the northeastern part of MD-07 and the Polling location for Baltimore county is 39-40 Miles, approximately an hour to 1.5 hr drive,(these are not direct routes). The locations chosen do not adequately service the county where a voter is registered.
How can this process help disabled voters of Baltimore county or southern and western Howard county? Why are voters encouraged to be out during a mandatory lockdown, possibly endangering themselves and others?
Demographics Favor Mfume
Look closer at the demographics: You will know why. The 3 locations which Mr. Ricci claims are chosen independently, help Mfume solely. There are 77,000 registered Democrats in this 19-mile area. That is 1/6th of all voters in the state. It is the equivalent to more than 1/3rd of the number of votes for Elijah Cummings in 2018. All of these voters are concentrated within one specific section of Mfume’s inner-city strength. The locations within 19 miles of each other are curiously within walking distance of Mr. Mfume’s home.
The locations chosen by the BOE purposefully disenfranchise the northern portion of the district. Everywhere but the Democrat strongholds of West Baltimore will require a long drive to vote. Currently, in Maryland, police are fining citizens with the possibility of imprisonment, anyone who does not adhere to the stay at home order.
Governor Why is this Happening?
No one has explained the logic behind why the BOE reversed course and accepted In-person voting? If access to the polls by people with disabilities, is at issue, why didn’t the BOE provide a solution to those impacted by their disability? The BOE could have provided rides. In-person voting at the moment can be for anyone that wishes to vote and is not restricted to the disabled. The BOE could have specifically arranged a plan to safely and easily provide solutions for people needing assistance. This would be more effective and prevent problems that could occur causing unfair or duplicate voting. What will prevent people from mailing their vote and then going to the polls for in-person voting?
Ricci claims the BOE decision is fair and independent, accommodating the disabled in the area. Why not limit it in-person voting only to those truly disabled and provide someone from the BOE to pick up those ballots directly. Opening the Polls for in-person voting is not fair. It was never meant to be.
The Governor should explain to everyone his reasoning like he explains the reasons for keeping Maryland citizens under house arrest. Why is he allowing this to happen in the USA?