A group of demonstrators rallied Wednesday in Annapolis calling on Maryland lawmakers to sign a pledge ensuring that every lawful vote cast in Tuesday’s presidential election will be counted.
“We should not have to be here,” said Rev. Angela Martin, the Maryland Tri-State Chair of Poor People’s Campaign. “It should be an automatic given that every vote is counted."
A sense of exasperation pervaded the 50 or so organizers, elected leaders and citizens many of whom echoed Martin’s frustrations and concern after President Donald Trump prematurely declared victory in the early morning hours of Wednesday. Trump falsely claimed that he had won several key battleground states, some of which still have hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballots yet to count.
“I am here because of the deliberate impeding of the democratic process,” Martin said. "And I’m alarmed because our elected officials should not be trying to disenfranchise voters. They should be enabling and empowering; making more avenues for voters to be able to exercise their franchise.”
While some states, like Pennsylvania, didn’t start canvassing until Election Day, Maryland was the first state to begin counting mail-in ballots in early October, something several speakers noted Wednesday as a point of pride.
“You’re giving me your voice, I’m lending my voice to this national effort to make sure not just in Maryland but across the nation, our votes and our voices are counted,” said state Sen. Sarah Elfreth, D-Annapolis.
Jesse Noviello, an organizer with Progressive Maryland, one of the many organizations to support Wednesday’s demonstration, said he wanted to send a clear message that all votes must be counted in every state.
“It’s ridiculous that I have to be out here to say that but if that’s what I’ve got to do, that’s what I’ve got to do," he said.
Trump’s claims received a swift backlash from members of both parties, including the campaign of his Democratic challenger Joe Biden, which called the speech “outrageous.”
Ruth Rodenberg, an 80-year-old Annapolis resident said she was “so upset” about the last four years of the Trump administration, but wasn’t surprised that he had tried to claim victory before the votes were counted.
“I just felt I had to come today because we have to count these d--- votes,” she said.
Rodenberg added, “Can I say this honestly?” before directing an expletive at the president.
Count Every Vote! Maryland, the group behind the demonstration was founded last month by Baltimore Quakers. In the weeks since its founding, the group has grown to include more than 60 faith and civic organizations, according to its website. The organization also put together a car caravan Wednesday evening in Baltimore along Northern Parkway.
While visiting a polling place in Annapolis on Election Day, Gov. Larry Hogan assured voters that every vote in Maryland would be counted.
“We count the votes, and then we live with the decision,” he said.
Martin credited Hogan for speaking out but urged him to go further. In a nod to the governor announcing that he had written in Ronald Reagan for president, Martin said he should “Just Say No” to other Republican leaders who may try to stop counting votes early. The three-word slogan was used by Reagan’s wife Nancy in a drug awareness campaign in the 1980s.
“If anyone, anywhere, tries to delegitimize the vote, ‘Just Say No,’” Martin said to the crowd.
More than 50 Maryland legislators have signed the vote-counting pledge, according to the group’s website. They include Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley, Anne Arundel County Councilwoman Lisa Rodvien, D-Annapolis, and two members of the Anne Arundel Delegation, Del. Heather Bagnall and Del. Mary Lehman and more.
Maryland’s 8th Congressional District Rep. Jamie Raskin, who also won reelection Tuesday, and newly elected Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott were also among those who’ve pledged their support.
The pledge includes five parts: to vote and encourage constituents to vote; insist on counting all lawful ballots allowed by state law before agreeing that election results are legitimate; promise to contest any results that do not include all lawfully cast ballots; publicly support peaceful demonstrations in favor of all votes being counted, and insisting on a peaceful transfer of power if required.
A winner has yet to be declared in the U.S. presidential race Tuesday between Trump and Biden. Biden held a slight edge in electoral votes Wednesday evening as election officials in several battleground states continued to count mail-in ballots.
Biden did defeat Trump in Maryland, with about 60% of the votes that had been counted as of 6 p.m. Wednesday, nearly 600,000 votes, according to Maryland Board of Elections results. The state’s 10 electoral votes helped Biden inch toward the 270 needed to win.
Maryland Policy & Politics
In Anne Arundel County, Biden’s margin of victory was more narrow, about 53% to 45%, according to state election results.
The county set a record for early voting this year with 111,023 residents voting early, surpassing the 76,200 early votes cast in 2016. Another 145,786 ballots that were mailed out were returned, a nearly 90% return rate. And 43,385 people voted on Election Day, according to the Anne Arundel County Election Board.
More than 300,000 of the 405,000 eligible voters in Anne Arundel County turned out, a turnout percentage of 74%. Biden received about 115,000 votes. Trump garnered 88,000, a nearly 30% decrease compared to 2016.
This is the second time in as many presidential elections that a Democratic candidate carried the county after Hillary Clinton defeated Trump by a two-point margin in 2016. No other Democrat had carried Anne Arundel since Lyndon Johnson in 1964.
The four Democratic incumbents who represent parts of Anne Arundel County in the U.S. House of Representatives all retained their seats Tuesday night.
In District 2, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger defeated his Republican challenger, Johnny Ray Salling, 66.6% to 33.2%. Rep. John Sarbanes beat Charles Anthony, a Republican, by a 40-point margin in District 3. District 4′s incumbent Rep. Anthony Brown, garnered more than 80% of the vote in his victory over Republican George E. McDermott. And Majority Leader Steny Hoyer won a 22nd term in Congress, defeating Chris Palombi, 67% to 32.8%, in District 5.
Ruppersberger and Sarbanes both carried Anne Arundel County in their respective districts. While, McDermott narrowly carried the county over Brown by 1,700 votes and Palombi won the county over Hoyer, by 483 votes.