Black America Web Featured Video

Maryland opened just three polling stations for Tuesday’s special congressional election after mailing ballots to every registered voter as the coronavirus pandemic dramatically reshaped the race between Democrat Kweisi Mfume and Republican Kimberly Klacik.

The state’s Board of Elections sent out roughly 484,000 ballots after Republican Gov. Larry Hogan issued a proclamation last month requiring vote by mail to determine who will finish the term of Rep. Elijah Cummings, who died in October.


After seeing how Wisconsin voters had to wait for hours at crowded polling stations to participate in their primary, Maryland decided to provide eligible voters with ballots weeks in advance and to encourage as many mail-in votes as possible in a test of how future elections might safely be held.

Elections officials across the country have been scrambling to address public health concerns raised by in-person voting, with many pushing back their elections by weeks or months so they can prepare for an influx of ballots cast by mail, move polling places, recruit more poll workers and acquire cleaning supplies and protective gear.

Most states have been ramping up vote by mail with the use of absentee ballots. A few — including Kansas, Wyoming and Alaska — scrapped in-person voting in favor of sending mail-in ballots to every registered voter. Others, such as Georgia and Nebraska, opted to send absentee ballot applications — not the ballots themselves — to every registered voter. Georgia also didn’t offer postage-paid applications, requiring would-be voters to find stamps.

These decisions have largely applied only for the next primaries and special elections. Debates continue on whether to make similar changes for the November general election.

Maryland’s 7th District contest was initially was going to be an all mail-in vote, but limited in-person voting was allowed after concerns were raised about people who can’t cast ballots by mail, including the disabled and homeless. More than 85,000 votes already have been mailed in.

Also, voters who did not receive the ballot in their mailbox were asked to email or call the Board of Elections in order to receive a ballot electronically, print it and either mail it or drop it off in an official drop box. Unlike those who got their ballot in the mail, those who printed their own did have to add postage to their envelope.


Mfume, a 71-year-old Democrat who held the seat for five terms from 1987 to 1996, is trying to regain the office he held before Cummings.

Baltimore resident Kyle Baylor said he planned to drop off his ballot with a vote for Mfume at the post office.

“He has a more direct approach to politics and policies and how he handles things, and from what I’ve seen, he seems to care about the issues of Baltimore city, which is something that we desperately need,” Baylor said.

Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 4-1 in the majority-black district, which includes a significant portion of Baltimore, as well as parts of Baltimore and Howard counties.

Mfume supports stronger gun-control measures, such as reauthorizing a federal assault weapons ban that expired in 2005. He also is focusing on the root causes of crime, like the inability of young adults to find jobs. He has made health care a priority, particularly lower prescription drug costs.

“I believe very much in improving and strengthening Obamacare,” Mfume said in a recent interview.

Klacik, a Baltimore County Republican Central Committee member, generated buzz with her Fox News appearances after her social media posts last year showed trash and blight in Baltimore. President Donald Trump then tweeted that the district was a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” where “no human being would want to live.”

Cummings, the powerful House Oversight Committee chairman, was leading multiple investigations of the president at the time.

Klacik, 38, has campaigned on economic development. She wants to help struggling parts of Baltimore through the federal “opportunity zones” program. Supported by Trump, the program focuses on increasing private investment in distressed communities with tax incentives for people who invest in real estate projects and operate businesses in designated low-income communities.

“To me, the only way you’re going to lift people out of poverty is with employment, and I think that’s what really made me want to run for the seat, because I could see the need for career opportunities, not just jobs but actual careers,” Klacik said in a recent interview.

The winner will serve the remainder of Cummings’ term into January, and also run as an incumbent in a June 2 primary for the next full term. Voters also have been strongly encouraged to vote by mail in that contest as well.