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Maryland saw a 57% increase in early voters. Voters discuss the issues that matter to them at the ballot box.

Story Transcript

EZE JACKSON: Baltimoreans headed to the polls last week for early voting. In Maryland, a crowded gubernatorial Democratic primary seeks to find a nominee who can unseat the current Republican Larry Hogan. That primary takes place on June 26, with the general election happening in November. We visited the polls during early voting to see what issues drove voters to make their decision in not just the governor’s race, but state Senate, and a heated state’s attorney’s race, as well.

IRVIN: As citizens it’s our civic duty to vote, or else our voice would not be heard, and our needs. It’s our civic duty for our children, and it’s just the right thing to do.

EZE JACKSON: Voters seem to be primarily concerned about a few things: education, crime, and healthcare.

What issues made you make your decision [inaudible] today?

JAMAL MASON: One, healthcare reform. That’s not primarily one, but I work for the Health Department and I have a lot of issues with the opioid epidemic that’s going on. Also, I follow national politics, so I know they’re trying to [get money back] from CDC. And I work with HIV remission, so that’s another thing. The cost of violence, reforming the city, that goes back to mental health behavior. From the reforms you have the criminal justice system. I do believe once you’re in the system that’s a dead end for you. And education.

ROPU KRAGBE: Me, from a social worker perspective, I have a lot of issues especially when it comes to dealing with issues for the less privileged. And I think that is the most key thing. And what I usually do is, before voting, I go to the platform of every individual that is in the race, and not look at the platform or read about them, but what have they done for their constituents in the past? Or the new ones that are just coming in the race, I also have to look at what they did in the past. If that aligned with their values that they do stand for, then I can go ahead and vote for them. But if they do not stand by their values? Practice what you preach, that’s what I believe in.

SPEAKER: Education for one. Teachers, you know, need a raise and whatnot, you know. And I’m saying, they got three-. First they, let me start with the casinos, you know, supposed to help the teachers. Once you got casinos and all that stuff, had enough money, teachers wouldn’t get laid off. It’s not happening, though. What are they doing with all the money?

EZE JACKSON: Given recent exposure of police corruption in the case of the Gun Trace Task Force, and other incidents since the 2015 death of Freddie Gray in police custody, voters have also become even more skeptical of law enforcement. But it’s not just from what they see in the news. Some experience it firsthand simply fulfilling their civic duties, like this mom who brought us sons to the polls with her.

KATHY ROGERS: I served on a jury a year and a half ago, and I was appalled at the performance of Baltimore city police. They did not do the proper investigation. They just basically found somebody who was black and was a young man and stopped the investigation. I couldn’t convict on that. And fortunately the rest of the jury and enough people felt the same way that the person wasn’t convicted, but it was just an appalling miscarriage of justice in action.

EZE JACKSON: This year, Maryland saw a significant increase in turnout during early voting. Early voting has only existed in the states since 2010, and every year the turnout has increased. But even with a 57 percent increase this year, the numbers still only reflect about 6 percent of the eligible voting population.

Most voters had very simple approaches, and even some words for candidates running for office.

JOANNA COX: Well we did it really-. We sat down and analyzed a lot from interviews to see exactly who we thought would be the better candidate. I think we’re very fortunate this time, we have a lot of very good people running. So it’s hard to make a decision.

ROPU KRAGBE: You say X Y Z, and you cannot deliver for your people, you cannot do what your people ask you to do, then you don’t need to run for office.

EZE JACKSON: For the Real News Network in Baltimore, I’m Eze Jackson.

Eze Jackson

As the host and producer of The Whole Bushel, Eze sits down with artists both veteran and green over Baltimore-style steamed crabs to discuss a range of topics, from art to activism to everything in between. Most know Eze as a talented rapper from Baltimore and the frontman of the band Soul Cannon. Previously, he used his experience in campaign management to improve his community and organize for political change. Eze has marched under many banners, supporting the fight for affordable healthcare, marriage equality, police reform, and other worthy causes.