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Amid pandemic and protests, Maryland voters compelled to vote ‘now more than ever’

With the 2020 Maryland’s primary underway, local polling places are taking procedures to fight the spread of COVID-19 for voters.

After ballots for the primary election never arrived at their new home in Tuscany-Canterbury, Dan Dudrow and Miriam Travieso made calls and even went looking for them at their old place — to no avail.

That is why they found themselves Tuesday at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, one of six in-person voting sites in the city. There, they were determined to have a say in who will lead their city and their country through a time of both pandemic and protest.

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“We really care about who gets elected,” said Dudrow, 79, a retired professor of painting and drawing at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

“It’s very important the way that everything is going now,” said his wife Travieso, 82, a retired psychiatric nurse. “We really wanted to stand for peace and cooperation with others.”

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“Now more than ever,” Dudrow added.

The confluence of the coronavirus pandemic, the resulting economic shutdown and the nationwide unrest brought on by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis has made many voters feel that picking the right mayor and other government leaders is especially crucial, they told reporters yesterday.

“A lot of things are going on in the city, and leadership is important,” said Mavi Lankatilleke, 20, an engineering student at the University of Maryland, College Park.

“It’s a really hurting climate right now,” the Federal Hill resident said. “It’s a lot at the same time.”

He and others expressed no small amount of civic pride after Monday, when a massive demonstration in Baltimore shut down a highway and rolled through parts of the city into the early hours of the next day but without the fires and looting that ravaged so many other cities.

“I’m really proud of Baltimore,” he said.

He’s followed local and national politics more closely since 2016, and hopes young people are similarly motivated to go to the polls.

“It’s really divisive right now,” Lankatilleke said. “During a pandemic, it’s not a time to be divisive.”

Separated by signs on the ground showing how far apart they should stand, voters were required to wear masks and were offered hand sanitizer once they entered.

Across from where they lined up to vote was an empty field, in full political bloom: Colorful signs and banners sprouted from the ground. Campaign workers and the candidates themselves, unable to door-knock and otherwise press the flesh during the coronavirus lockdown, were finally sprung.

“I like the drama of it all,” Brenda Lorick said of the act of voting at this time. "It gives me such energy and joy to come out today.”

The 75-year-old Madison Park resident sounded particularly ready for November, and the chance to vote for presumptive Democratic nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden against President Donald Trump.

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She said she was offended by Trump’s “racist, militaristic behavior" Monday when police used shields, batons and flash-bangs to push peaceful protesters near the White House from a park to clear a path for him to be photographed in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church, “holding up a Bible when he never goes to church.”

“I think this is the most critical year in my lifetime,” said Lorick, who is retired from teaching English and the humanities at Morgan State University.

In Baltimore, she hopes for a new beginning.

“It angers me that we always seem to take three steps forward," Lorick said, "and four steps back,”

Mayoral candidate Sheila Dixon talks with new city voter Indria Tennessee at Edmondson Westside High School in Baltimore Tuesday, June 2, 2020. (Jerry Jackson/The Baltimore Sun via AP)
Mayoral candidate Sheila Dixon talks with new city voter Indria Tennessee at Edmondson Westside High School in Baltimore Tuesday, June 2, 2020. (Jerry Jackson/The Baltimore Sun via AP) (Jerry Jackson/AP)

At the other in-person voting sites, there were similar sentiments. Voters couldn’t help but be reminded of the ongoing pandemic. At Northwood Elementary, election workers wiped down voting tables in the school’s gymnasium between each use, and nearly everyone wore a mask. And in another sign of these times, the toilet paper ran out.

Mayoral candidates Brandon Scott, who is currently City Council president, and Thiru Vignarajah, the former deputy state attorney general, bumped elbows in greeting as they arrived to scrounge up any last-minute votes.

The days of protests weighed on many voters’ minds.

At Mount Pleasant Church, Ashley Webb, 30, said she typically doesn’t vote in local elections, but it felt especially important to do so Tuesday

“The police brutality. The injustice to black people,” she said. “I feel like if I want to see a change, I need to be a part of that change.”

Baltimore Sun reporters Christina Tkacik and Talia Richman contributed to this article.

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