People with disabilities need, deserve better protection

Community members with disabilities deserve the same rights as everyone else and should have the same opportunities. Many want to work and earn a living wage, attend school or college, have friends, enjoy dates, lead a healthy life and participate in a faith or social community.

Unfortunately, that is not the reality when the safety of disabled residents is in jeopardy. The disabled community continues to be marginalized through a lack of comprehensive public policy. As Baltimore continues to grapple with public safety challenges, community members with disabilities must not be left behind. Whether it is the case of a child with autism being found alone in the park or a deaf man killed at a Baltimore jail, we see frequent examples of the mistreatment of people with disabilities.

Police and other emergency responders should help bridge the gap for at-risk populations. For example, first responders need comprehensive training on the use of specialized electronic search-and-rescue equipment and on how to effectively communicate with people who have cognitive challenges.

We must act quickly to save the lives of all residents in Baltimore, especially members of the disabled community. Will we act now, before the next tragic incident?

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Matthew Reeds, Baltimore

Matthew Reeds founded The Reeds Fund, which focuses on supporting young adults on the autism spectrum.

Return to centralized voting centers would benefit voters, lower costs

An election official instructs a voter on how to properly submit their ballot at the Dunbar High School polling place on Nov. 8, 2022. (Paul Newson/The Baltimore Banner)

Our voting system in Maryland, and especially in Baltimore City, needs to modernize to better meet our residents’ needs and be more cost-effective.

In recent years, Maryland jurisdictions have taken some steps to make voting more accessible related to early voting and, more recently, with permitting same-day voter registration.

In response to the pandemic, Maryland expanded its mail-in and drop box options. Centralized voting centers were employed for the November 2020 elections. Twenty-four locations opened across Baltimore, where any city resident could vote.

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I served as an election judge at a voting center on Election Day 2020. The new system worked well, and voters seemed satisfied. There were many fewer provisional voters because voters could vote anywhere in the city as opposed to just their home precinct.

The facilities were larger than the normal precinct polling places. I was in a high school gym on the Eastside. The site had bus access, bike racks and a good-sized parking lot. We had voters from the immediate area, and voters who worked or attended school near the site, all come there to vote.

Going back to the precinct location system in this year’s primary and general elections was a step backward. It costs more, and has greater challenges with staffing. It requires many more election judges, and the huge expense of moving all the equipment from the early voting locations to the precincts.

State and local officials should be open to changes that enhance accessibility for voters and lower the costs of holding elections.

Laurie Feinberg, Baltimore

Laurie Feinberg has served as a Baltimore City election judge since 2016.

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