New boundaries leave some voters feeling lost

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Shawn Radek headed yesterday for the cafeteria at Warren Elementary School in Cockeysville, where she has always voted. But election workers there couldn't find her on their list of registered Democrats, so they sent her to the school gymnasium, where voting for another precinct was taking place.

Still no Shawn Radek on the rolls.

Elections Judge Chris Carr had to call county election headquarters to figure out where Radek could cast her ballot: a senior citizen center a few miles away.

"I haven't moved or anything. It's so confusing." said Radek, 35, a computer specialist who found herself in a new legislative district, 5B.

That kind of head-scratching was common yesterday as Maryland held its first election under a new legislative map.

Poll workers accustomed to taking voters by the hand during the big elections, the presidential years that draw folks who haven't cast ballots in years, had to do the same for the veterans who turn out for primaries.

"They say, 'Why so-and-so ain't on the ballot?' " said Jean Booker, an elections judge at the Madison Square Recreation Center in East Baltimore in the redrawn 44th District. "I say, 'Baby, you're in the 44th now. You don't have them.' "

Redistricting was just one curveball thrown at voters yesterday as they tried to choose their parties' nominees for governor, comptroller, House of Delegates, state Senate and local races.

Even some of the candidates had trouble casting ballots.

Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy had to wait to vote because a custodian was 35 minutes late opening the doors at her polling place, Mergenthaler Vocational Technical High School in West Baltimore.

A 73-year-old election judge was mugged on his way to his North Baltimore polling place. James Tunstall was walking outside Guilford Elementary and Middle School about 6:30 a.m. when a young man robbed him of his eyeglasses and watch. Tunstall suffered minor injuries, police said.

In Montgomery County, new touch-screen voting machines proved tricky to start up. In some precincts, that led to longer lines and delays.

"There have been those issues that have created some headaches." said Margaret A. Jurgensen, the county's election director.

Most Marylanders were untouched by these snags, as a majority of the state's registered voters were no-shows.

Less than 35 percent of those eligible to vote were expected to exercise the franchise in Baltimore.

While primary voting is traditionally sparse, the light turnout was a surprise to some who thought several heated races and a resurgence of patriotism on the eve of Sept. 11 would attract more people to the polls.

"The day before 9/11, I thought more would really get involved." said Joanne Miller, an election judge at Cockeysville Middle School, where only 106 of 1,250 eligible voters had cast ballots by 10:30 a.m.

For some of those who did vote, the anniversary of last year's terrorist attacks added significance to their civic duty.

"I have six grandchildren. I have one who's in ROTC, and he might have to go to war." said Mary Ford of Cockeysville, 65, who voted for C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, the Baltimore County executive running for Congress in the 2nd District.

Like many of those casting ballots yesterday, Ford, a retired retail clothing manager, wasn't just focused on the top of the ballot. She knew just whom she wanted for judge, sheriff, even Orphans" Court.

But some voters who came to the polls prepared to vote for their favorite incumbents found them absent from the ballot because of redistricting.

At South Carroll High School, Woodbine resident Joe Kuhn was confused about his new delegate district, 9B, which carves out a piece of the county that borders Howard and Baltimore counties.

"I had a hard time just trying to find a map, but luckily one came with my new voter's card." he said.

Voters weren't the only ones confused. Candidates for different districts sent campaign materials to the Cockeysville-area home of Ted and Doris Robinson.

The couple brought their voter cards to the Warren Elementary School cafeteria but were sent to the gym to vote in a different district.

"Everybody that I was going to vote for was not there." said Doris Robinson, a retired medical secretary. "It was completely different names."

Besides confusing voters, redistricting resulted in bitterly contested races with one-time allies in the House and Senate forced to run against each other in some districts.

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski criticized Gov. Parris N. Glendening for the results of redistricting when she voted at the First English Lutheran Church at North Charles and 39th streets in Baltimore - perhaps the only polling place in the nation where two U.S. senators live close enough to walk.

(Maryland's senior senator, Paul S. Sarbanes, arrived at the church about an hour later to shake hands and vote.)

Mikulski noted that redistricting forced House of Delegates Majority Leader Maggie L. McIntosh to run alone against a team endorsed by state Sen. Joan Carter Conway, a Baltimore Democrat running unopposed.

McIntosh is a close ally of Mikulski's and ran her 1992 Senate campaign.

The courts created the current map. But Mikulski said Glendening was to blame because the one he drew, which the courts later threw out, was "gerrymandering at its worst. It was vindictive, and it backfired."

Racial tensions raised by redistricting also surfaced yesterday. Some residents in the mostly white, working-class neighborhood of Hampden were confused and frustrated when they saw the ballots.

Redistricting meant that three white incumbent state delegates voters were used to - Samuel I. "Sandy" Rosenberg, McIntosh and James W. Campbell - had been replaced by three African-American incumbents - Howard P. Rawlings, Salima S. Marriott and Tony E. Fulton - seeking re-election in a redrawn district.

"People are frustrated with that, because Hampden is still a white neighborhood." said Shelly Hampton, who runs a beauty salon and was out campaigning yesterday morning for a local House challenger, Dennis T. Byrne. "I don't have a problem with [having black representatives], but some people are afraid of what is going to happen to us because of the redistricting."

Among those who didn't vote yesterday was Sharon Frost, a worker at the Blue Iris flower shop on Frederick Road in Catonsville.

"My friends and I don't talk about politics much." said Frost, 23. "And I don't pay a lot of attention to it. People my age are very down on government."

Frost, describing herself as "pretty much a hippie." said she was relieved to learn that William Donald Schaefer, the former mayor and governor seeking a second term as state comptroller, "is still around. I thought he might have been dead."

Sun staff writers Maria Blackburn, Mike Bowler, Athima Chansanchai, Stephanie Desmon, Tom Pelton, Eric Siegel, Jason Song, Jamie Stiehm and Del Quentin Wilber contributed to this article.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
46°