Baltimore City election officials are finalizing a deal to use Oriole Park at Camden Yards as a voting center for the November election.
City elections Director Armstead Jones scouted the downtown baseball stadium Monday, looking at how many pieces of election equipment could be placed at the site.
Ballpark and election officials envision using the Baltimore Orioles facility as a larger voting center, Jones told his board last week.
“It’s on light rail and other transportation. It’s a large facility. I think it has a lot of advantages with the parking, as well,” Jones said last week. “We’re grateful for the opportunity.”
Jones said this week that ballpark officials showed him space in the stadium’s climate-controlled lounges where voting could be held. Free parking would be offered in the lots between the baseball stadium and the Baltimore Ravens’ M&T Bank Stadium, he said.
City election officials, like those across the state, are finalizing locations for voting centers for early voting Oct. 26 through Nov. 2 and for Nov. 3, Election Day.
This month, state election officials opted to open just 360 voting centers across Maryland, rather than the roughly 1,600 polling places offered in a typical election year. Voting centers can be used by any voter in a jurisdiction unlike polling places, which are limited to the voters assigned to specific precincts.
The reduction was made to address a shortage of election judges in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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While the Baltimore City Board of Elections approved a preliminary list of locations last week, it has not been disclosed. Jones said the list would become public after it is approved by the State Board of Elections.
The state board instructed local election directors to put Election Day voting centers at public high schools or an equivalent number of buildings.
Baltimore’s initial plan calls for about 25 voting centers, eight early voting sites and about 35 drop boxes. The Camden Yards voting center was not included in those figures.
Stadiums have become attractive venues for voting during the pandemic due to their size, ample parking, central locations and access to transit. Nationals Park will open for Washington, D.C., voters in November. Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles will also serve as a vote center. The Boston Red Sox have offered the use of Fenway Park, according to news reports.
Jones said officials have considered whether Camden Yards is close enough to the many city residents who will use voting centers this fall. People living in Federal Hill and Fells Point are nearby, he noted, as are downtown residents. While the stadium is not in a highly residential neighborhood, it has the advantage of parking, he said.
“People will go where there’s parking and open space,” he said.
Jones said he has also had an offer from Morgan State University to offer a large voting center at its Northeast Baltimore campus. Jones said he plans to tour the site, and finalize deals with the university and ballpark in the next few weeks.