Light turnout as Baltimore voters head to polls

Light turnout as Baltimore voters head to polls
Marty Schreiber of Mount Washington casts his ballot in the Baltimore general election at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart school on Tuesday morning. (Baltimore Sun/Kim Hairston)

Councilman Warren Branch and write-in candidate Shannon Sneed, vying for the City Council seat representing District 13, shared a small patch of sidewalk turf outside Fort Worthington Elementary on Oliver Street in east Baltimore.

They shook hands, gave out fliers and called out to the trickle of voters who headed into the school as city voters headed to the polls Tuesday to cast their ballots in the city's general election.

"It's been like they predicted — slow," Sneed said, as she handed out cards with directions for voters to complete a write-in ballot. "We want people to come out," she said.

Election officials have said they expected a light turnout as residents cast votes for mayor and other offices, including City Council. Election chief Armstead B. Crowley Jones Jr. estimated that only 10 percent to 12 percent of the city's 371,799 registered voters would cast ballots Tuesday. About 23 percent voted in the primary.

In addition to electing city council members, Tuesday's election ballots also include several charter amendments to put aside money for repairing and building schools, and to lower the age for serving on the City Council from 21 to 18.

By 7 p.m., 12 hours after the polls opened, 35,482 voters had cast their ballots, election officials said. That figure represents about 9.5 percent of registered voters.

Polls are open until 8 p.m.

Andrew Ragsdale, 74, and his wife Gloria, 71, who have lived on Biddle Street for more than 20 years, said they felt compelled to cast their vote after Sneed came knocking on her door during her campaign.

"We need fresh blood," Andrew Ragsdale said.

Sneed lost to Branch by 43 votes in the Democratic primary.

As far as the citywide races, including the mayoral and city council race, Ragsdale said "there isn't anybody to vote for." But she said he would vote for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Council President Bernard "Jack" Young.

He added however, "I'm disappointed by all of them."

James S. Brown, who walked to the school from his home, said he too wasn't happy with the incumbents.

"I thought Rawlings-Blake did a great job with the snow," Brown said, but he added "people have gotten comfortable with their positions in Baltimore."

He said he didn't vote for any of the incumbents.

Nearby, Sneed's mother, Linda Miles, didn't hesitate to say who she cast her vote for.

"She's the perfect candidate," she said of he daughter. She said she was proud of her daughter's extensive campaigning.

"Everyone recognizes her name," she said, as she drew a large shaw around her. She said was there when the polls opened and would stay until they closed. As each voter walked up to the school's entrance, she would tell voters to write in and introduce herself as the candidate's mother.

Diane Williams, who sat alongside Sneed's mother, was there handing out fliers in support of Branch. The climate was friendly, as the two woman chatted during in foot traffic.

"I'm trying to get him re-elected," Williams said of Branch, who she said understands the needs and concerns of the community, which include vacant houses and the need for after-school programs for children.

"Whoever gets elected got has to go in and do something," she said. "Nobody wants to live in a community with boarded-up houses."

Williams said she also voted for the other incumbents, saying she wanted Rawlings-Blake to have more time in office.

"Let her stay in there and see what she's going to do," Williams said.

Bernard McCullough, 48, said he too voted for the incumbents but he said the 13th District has many concerns including crime, abandoned houses and trash.

He said he voted for Rawlings-Blake because "she's a hands-on person. She hasn't really failed at anything," he said, saying she should have additional time in office to have opportunities to accomplish more.

McCullough said "I just want thing to get better as a whole. I'm tired of the way things are."

Find more information on the races and polling places here

Baltimore Sun reporters Luke Broadwater and Mary Gail Hare contributed to this article.