Baltimore Prepares for Vote-By-Mail Primary Election

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The state of Maryland will hold a primary election June 2. The election, which was postponed due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, will primarily be done through mail-in ballots, according to the state board of elections website.

Positions up for election on the ballot will include that of president of the U.S., congressional representatives, and judgeships on the Baltimore County Circuit Court. The positions of mayor, city council, and council president will also be on the ballot, according to Howard Libit, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council.

Libit praised Gov. Larry Hogan for the decision to switch to a vote-by-mail election, saying that the ability to vote is “an important right, and I certainly wouldn’t want anyone, but particularly medically vulnerable adults, to feel like they had to make a choice between their health or between casting their ballot. Mailing ballots out to everybody in this particular time frame is absolutely the right decision and will hopefully ensure that everyone feels like they have a chance to safely cast their ballot.”

Libit said he has heard of delays regarding voters in Baltimore City receiving their mail-in ballots, though he expressed confidence that voters would receive their ballots in time.

Among the candidates are two incumbent Jewish members of
the Baltimore City Council: Zeke Cohen of District 1 and Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer of District 5.

“I am a public servant and a girl dad,” Cohen said. “I have a wife who is a psychiatrist, and a beautiful, wonderful, brilliant daughter, who’s two, who loves Elmo. And my focus is supporting young people.”

Cohen cited the Elijah Cummings Healing City Act as the piece of legislation he was most proud to have worked on. Should he win reelection, Cohen pledged to fight for those in Baltimore who have been disinvested and to implement the Elijah Cummings Healing City Act in a way that has a “transformational impact on people’s lives.”

Councilman Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer. Photo by FeeBee Photography.

With a campaign slogan of “back to basics,” Schleifer emphasized the importance of local government addressing the smaller concerns that can get overlooked in politics. “The role of local government, like the City Council, is to make sure that people’s city services and basic needs are being met,” Schleifer said. “That’s everything from trash collection, to streets, to crime, to making sure they’re getting just responses on anything that involves city services. And so that has been our big focus over the past four years.” If reelected, Schleifer hoped to focus on continuing his work on empowering community organizations and
associations “to get things done.”

When asked what were the most pressing political issues currently concerning Baltimore’s Jewish community, Libit cited the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and the state it has left the economy in.

“Right now, clearly, the pandemic and the economy is a huge pressing issue in our community,” he said.

Libit also noted public safety, economic development, and education as other issues of great concern to the local Jewish community, and that they are shared by the local electorate at large.

Libit cited the approval of the Pimlico redevelopment plan as a positive step forward for the local Jewish community, and he looked forward to seeing how elected officials move forward with it. The plan’s aim, according to Libit, is to keep the Preakness Stakes horse race in Baltimore while redeveloping the area into a multi-use site with retail and potential housing, transforming the site into “a dynamic economic engine that builds off of Sinai Hospital and builds off the community.”

“We have a particular interest in economic development in northwest Baltimore County, because that’s where a lot of the population lives,” Libit said. “I know the community was really happy that Gov. Hogan allowed the Pimlico redevelopment plan to move forward. That’s … a really important economic development tool for the community’s future. In terms of the local races, whoever is elected mayor, and to the other leadership positions, we’re going to be very interested to see how they work with the state to move that process forward.”

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