Ethan Giffin moved to Baltimore in 1999. But he didn’t register to vote in the city until he bought a house in 2006.
In talking to other tech scene transplants with the mayoral election cycle kicking into full swing, the Groove CEO has found many people have had the same sort of timeline: move first, vote later.
So, to get more people voting in the 2016 election cycle, Giffin is spearheading BmoreVot.es. The initiative is aimed at providing tech firms, agencies and other companies with info about how much time they should give employees to vote, deadlines and the general rules of Baltimore’s primary system. Giffin said it’s a nonpartisan effort.
“We’re not endorsing any candidates,” Giffin said. “We’re basically just trying to say, ‘We want you to vote where you live and work.'”
Giffin said he’s aiming to organize events so people can meet candidates in early 2016. Giffin said he’s received support from business leaders as he’s talked to them about the initiative. Among the early supporters is Baltimore Angels cofounder and MissionTix CEO Greg Cangialosi.
In the U.S., voter turnout in general is usually among the lowest when compared with other democratic countries, and that’s measuring presidential years like 2016. For local elections, it’s even worse.
Like many cities, Baltimore’s elections are unique in that the primaries usually decide the outcome of the general election because of registered Democrats vastly outnumbering Republicans.
It’s been a recent recipe for low participation. Baltimore saw the worst turnout ever in 2011, when only 23 percent of registered voters — or 75,000 residents — showed up at the polls.
Next year’s primary is April 26, and deadline to register is April 5.
The Baltimore mayor’s race in 2016 has gained significance because it will see a new face in the city’s top job. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake decided she would not seek re-election, opening up the field.
So far, more than a dozen candidates have joined, from sitting City Council members to the owner of One Eyed Mike’s. In September we floated a list of 10 tech scene regulars who should run for mayor:
Several City Council seats are also on the ballot, including an open race in the district that represents Southeast Baltimore areas like Canton, Fells Point and Highlandtown.
“Having people make their voice heard is extremely important,” Giffin said. “Some of these races are won by a few thousand votes.”