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Residents Afraid to Vote at Their Polling Place

Some Eastport residents say they are worried about the safety of their polling location after two shootings have occurred near the Eastport Community Center.

Some Annapolis residents say that after two shootings near their polling place at the Eastport Community Center, they may decide to stay home on Election Day.

"I feel that it is unfairly putting our representation in a gerry-mandered position because a lot of those people feel very safe, but a lot of other people won't venture over there at all," Steven Conn said. "We don't want it to be moved. We understand that there are people there with limited mobility, but give us an alternative."

On Sunday night,   near the community center, and in June, Orlando Sherman McDaniel, 29, of Annapolis  he suffered near the 1100 block of Madison Street, which is nearby. No arrests have been made in either case.

For one Eastport resident, who asked not to be identified, her concerns go beyond the recent violence. She said she's been harassed at the polling place while trying to vote in past years. 

"I have gone there, and either on my way in or on my way out, I’ve been heckled about who I was going to vote for," she said. "I’ve had them where they blocked my car as I was trying to leave. It’s a very unsafe feeling, very unsafe."

Greg Brennan, another area resident, disagreed with the characterization that the polling place is unsafe. 

"The area around the Eastport Community Center has no history of daytime violence, especially assault on passersby," Brennan said. "The only risk is that some people will have to overcome their neuroses about poor people."

Scott Shaffer, the District 30 representative for the Anne Arundel County GOP, has served as an election judge at the community center.

"At no time did I feel unsafe, or witness voters being harassed by residents of the public housing community." Shaffer said. "Given the recent shooting and general increase in crime among Annapolis Housing Authority neighborhoods, I know many residents are hoping the city police department will step up their patrols of the area on Election Day."

Alderman Mathew Silverman (D-5th Ward) said that sounded like a fair compromise for this election cycle. He even said he would recommend stationing a patrol car outside the community center during voting hours. 

Whether the threat is real or perceived didn't matter to Silverman.

"Nobody can say you're not in fear," Silverman said. "If having an officer or a patrol car there means people go and vote that wouldn’t normally go there and vote, I don’t think that’s too much to ask."

That may be the only option for nervous voters on Nov. 6 because Anne Arundel County Board of Elections Director Joe Torre said it is simply too late to move the current polling location or secure a new one. He said state law mandates that all polling locations must be finalized before the primary elections unless there is extenuating circumstances like a building failure.

"We can look at it after this election," Torre said. "If people say, 'We don’t like where we are, but there is a building down the corner that we think we will work,' we will go look at it because they know their neighborhood better than we do."

Maryland's State Board of Elections has a survey that evaluates potential polling places for things such as parking, handicap access and proximity to public transportation, Torre said. The survey—which can take several weeks—must be completed before a new polling location can be approved. 

If people are concerned about voting at the Eastport Community Center on Nov. 6, Torre said there are alternatives.

All Annapolis residents can vote in person at the at 121 South Villa Ave., from Oct. 27 until Nov. 1. Early voting hours are from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m., except on Oct. 28 when early voting hours are from noon to 6 p.m.

Voters can also use absentee ballots. These ballots can be picked up in person at the Anne Arundel County Board of Elections, or they can be mailed to a voter's home. The last date to request an absentee ballot be mailed is Oct. 30. Click here to find the forms and instructions for requesting an absentee ballot.

Torre said he would also talk with Chief Michael Pristoop about safety concerns at the Eastport Community Center voting location.

"I’m in touch with all of the public safety agencies in the county and in Annapolis," Torre said. "I’ll make sure to tell him to pay special attention to that location because of the activities that have gone on recently, and I'm sure he will do that."

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Full Name September 12, 2012 at 09:57 PM
This is not acceptable behavior but there is a smart no hassle way around this - just carry a Rommey/Ryan sign in or "voice" your Republican support then go in and vote any old way you want - just because someone asks you doesn't mean you have to tell they who you voted for - just tell them Rep to get them to shut up and leave you alone - they gloat like no tomorrow on November 3rd.
Kathie King-Hoffman September 13, 2012 at 12:30 AM
Vote absentee or vote early voting at the Boys and Girls Club of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County at 121 South Villa Ave., from Oct. 27 until Nov. 1. Early voting hours are from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m., except on Oct. 28 when early voting hours are from noon to 6 p.m. . Don't let them intimidate you not to vote. Every vote is needed
Full Name II September 13, 2012 at 03:48 AM
Those are the same tactics the Taliban has used in Afghanistan.
Karen Essen September 13, 2012 at 01:40 PM
To sum up: Democrats are afraid to vote Democrat because of potential violence from Democrats whose very existence is due to decades of Democrat policies. I need some feedback here, is this irony or poetic justice?
Paul D September 13, 2012 at 02:15 PM
I'd say poetic justice if a would-be Democrat voter chose to "stand their ground" in the face of right wing intimidation.
Beth Rubin September 13, 2012 at 06:08 PM
This disgusts me. Is there an organization or contact person for volunteers willing to accompany scared voters to the polls?
Karen Essen September 13, 2012 at 08:17 PM
You're missing the point, Beth: This isn't just voting we're talking about, it's people being freely able to do ANYTHING without intimidation in that area! I agree with you that there should be some sort of organization to protect people in that part of Eastport, like a Guardian Angels type patrol...
July Seventeen September 13, 2012 at 10:03 PM
Right wing intimadation??? Seriously, I doubt if there is a registered Republican in the (Harbor) House...
Steven Conn September 13, 2012 at 11:50 PM
What disgusts me is that 12 of of the other 13 polling places are churches, government offices, fire departments etc. we're the ONLY voting precinct whose polling place is smack dab in the middle of a community that has unfortunately become plagued by gun violence recently. It broke my heart when a neighbor told me how proud she was that her daughter was turning 18, and could excercise her Constitutional right to vote, but with the spike in violence she was reconsidering allowing her daughter to go to the polls. Bullets have to land somewhere, like how one of the many shots fired Sunday night punctured a gas line. Ultimately one of those bullets is going to unfortunately find an innocent bystander, who was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. I sure hope it's not a voter, who was in an area they wouldn't have otherwise gone to, if only to cat their ballot.
Steven Conn September 18, 2012 at 02:28 AM
It looks like this debate has been ongoing since 1997. It hasn't changed, and I doubt it ever will. Me thinks the powers that be like it this way... check out these articles from yester-year... http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1997-06-05/news/1997156075_1_6-polling-polling-place-public-housing http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1997-06-04/news/1997155035_1_site-moved-polling-place-polling-site
Full Name2 September 27, 2012 at 01:42 AM
It seems like there's an easy alternative for anyone concerned with visiting the Community Center -- vote at your convenience at the alternative locations between 27 October and 1 November. What's the big deal?
Steven Conn September 27, 2012 at 04:29 AM
What's the big deal? the other 12 (of the total 13) polling places offered ON election day are safe places: the Academy Stadium, a fire station, a church, etc. Ours is the only one surrounded by the biggest hotbed for criminal activity. Why should I have to vote early? Why should I have to vote absentee (we all know how well those votes are counted, see Florida). Why should my neighbors first time 18 year old daughter not be afforded the pride of voting in her OWN community (her Mom won't let her go due to the safety concerns) for the first time and proudly walking out of HER polling place with an "I voted" sticker? There are plenty of other venues in our community... THAT'S THE BIG DEAL.

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