Do you live in Maryland’s 7th Congressional District and totally forget there’s a special primary this week? Fear not. We’re here to help.
Polls are now closed for the special primary to help decide who will fill the remainder of the two-year term of U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, who died Oct. 17.
If you haven’t exactly been paying attention to the more than two dozen candidates vying to replace him, here’s everything you need to know about the race and how to participate.
Who is running?
Everyone. OK, not everyone. But it feels close to it.
There are 32 candidates in the race: 24 Democrats and eight Republicans. The special primary will decide a nominee for each party.
A special general election April 28 will choose the ultimate winner to take over Cummings’ seat until January 2021, representing parts of Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Howard County. But because registered Democratic voters outnumber registered Republicans more than 4 to 1, the winner of this special primary is likely to become the new House member in late April.
Among the Democrats running Tuesday are: Maryland House of Delegates Majority Whip Talmadge Branch; state Sen. Jill Carter; Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, Cummings’ widow and a former Maryland Democratic Party chairwoman; University of Baltimore law professor F. Michael Higginbotham; state Del. Terri L. Hill, a physician; state Del. Jay Jalisi; former U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume; community activist Saafir Rabb, and longtime Cummings staffer Harry Spikes.
Republicans running include community activist Reba A. Hawkins; Kimberly Klacik, a Middle River resident who runs a nonprofit called Potential Me; and Liz Matory, the 2018 Republican nominee for the 2nd Congressional District seat. Neither Klacik nor Matory lives in the district, but both said they would move there if elected.
You can read more on the candidates in the race in our handy voters guide.
What is the difference between the special primary and the primary?
The candidates really aren’t running just to fill the remaining year of Cummings’ term. Most are also vying for a full two-year term of their own that would begin Jan. 3, 2021.
That’s where it gets tricky. A “regular” primary to select the nominees for the full term will also be held April 28, the same day as the special general election. Then, the “regular” general election will be held in November to choose the winner of a full term in the House — from Jan. 3, 2021, to Jan. 3, 2023.
So, a candidate could theoretically lose Tuesday’s special primary, but then win the regular primary in April and have a good chance at winning a full term in Congress.
The Democratic special primary and regular primary are likely to determine the eventual winners of those elections, given the party’s substantial advantage in the district.
Are there any other races on the ballot Tuesday?
No. Cool your jets, you overachievers. There will be plenty of other races to vote on later this year, especially if you live in the Baltimore City portion of the 7th District.
Where can I vote?
If you’re a parent, you can bring up to two children younger than 18 with you to vote — as long as they don’t disrupt or interfere with voting procedures. You can’t use your cellphone, pager, camera or computer equipment in a polling place. But who still uses a pager, anyway?
Speaking of your kids, if you live in the 7th District, they might have the day off from school. The Baltimore City Public Schools system opted to close only the schools that are 7th District polling places — not every public school in the city — so check here for which schools are not holding classes Tuesday. Baltimore County and Howard County public schools decided to instead close all schools in their counties for the day.
There is no early voting in the special primary. That means you cannot vote at any early voting locations, and you should report to your standard polling place.
People can vote absentee. The deadline to request an absentee ballot delivered online was Friday.
Am I registered to vote?
We don’t know, but this link can tell you. The deadline to register was Jan. 14.
However, a new law also allows voters to register on the day of the election. To register Tuesday, go to your assigned polling place and bring a document that proves where you live. That can include a license, ID card or change of address card issued by the state. You can also use a paycheck, bank statement, utility bill or other government document that includes your name and address.
The Maryland Board of Elections sent a letter to all registered voters in the 7th district to remind them of Tuesday’s special primary.
You have until April 7 to register for the April 28 special election and regular primary.
When can I vote?
You can vote between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. Anyone in line at 8 p.m. will be allowed to vote.
Do I need my ID?
Usually, you won’t have to show ID if your name is on the state’s list of registered voters. However, workers at your polling place can ask for ID if you registered by mail or if someone challenges your identity.
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If you’re asked for identification, here’s what’s acceptable: a current, valid photo ID, such as a driver’s license, Motor Vehicle Administration ID card, passport, student ID, military card or employee badge. State and federal government ID cards work, too. So does a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or other government document that shows your name and address.
If you don’t have the required identification, you should request a provisional ballot. It will be counted if election officials can verify you are properly registered.
What if I’m not a Democrat or Republican?
Sorry, no voting for you. Maryland is a closed primary state, and third-party candidates have not yet officially filed to run in this race.
What happens if the weather is bad?
Fortunately, it’s not expected to be. Tuesday’s forecast calls for cloudy skies with an unseasonable high of 60 degrees. There’s only a 20% chance of rain.
If the weather does take an unexpected turn, that’s not necessarily a deal-breaker for voters. In the past, courts have issued orders requiring certain polling places to remain open later if the voting process is marred by severe weather or other unforeseen issues.
Check baltimoresun.com for updates on any changes to poll hours.
Clarification: A previous version of this article did not include that people can register to vote on the same day as the primary.