General Election 2020

Voters' Guide - General Election 2020

The Greater Baltimore Democratic Socialists of America (GBDSA) Electoral Committee has prepared the following abridged voters’ guide for the November 3, 2020 general election.

This voters’ guide highlights our endorsement of Franca Muller Paz for Baltimore City Council District 12, as well as an analysis of charter amendments on the ballot for city voters (and one for Baltimore County voters). In addition to our enthusiastic endorsement of Franca Muller Paz, this voters’ guide contains pragmatic voting recommendations from GBDSA Electoral Committee members that have analyzed each charter amendment through a leftist lens.

If we want to permanently shift the distribution of power in our country, we need to build a sustained movement of working people demanding that our economy and our society be run democratically to meet the needs of the public, not the profits of a few. Join us in the push for equality, solidarity, and democracy! Click here to learn about our upcoming events.

Table of Contents

How To Vote

Maryland State Questions

Baltimore City Council District 12

Baltimore City Charter Amendments

Baltimore County Charter Amendments

How To Vote

The 2020 general election will take place on November 3, 2020.


Check your registration status here and register to vote online here by Tuesday Oct. 13.

Mail-In Voting

Where to apply for mail-in ballots:

Deadline to request mail-in ballots: Tuesday Oct. 20

Where to mail your voted main-in ballot:

Where to hand deliver your voted mail-in ballot:

In Person Voting

Early In-Person Voting Dates: Oct. 26 - Nov. 2

General Election Date: Nov. 3

Don't forget, if you are not currently incarcerated, you can and should vote!

Maryland State Questions

Question 1: Balancing the State Budget

We are in agreement with our comrades at Montgomery County DSA in their support for State Question 1:

“State Question 1 would amend the state constitution of Maryland to allow for more budgetary oversight over the Governor’s budget by our state representatives. Maryland has one of the most restrictive laws when it comes to legislator input into our $40 billion+ budget. Our representatives should have a larger say in the fiscal priorities of the state.”

Question 2: Expansion of Commercial Gaming

We are in agreement with our comrades at Montgomery County DSA in their opposition to State Question 2:

“Question 2 is not primarily concerned with education but with profits for the sports betting industry. It asks the voters to approve new gambling without any transparency on how the new system will be regulated or taxed, or even a guess of how much education funding we could expect from its passage.

Essentially a blank check without precedent, the sports betting industry is the only contributor in support so far spending $750,000 to ram through this measure.

Betting revenues are not a just substitute for taxing the rich and corporations.”

Baltimore City Council District 12

GBDSA Endorses Franca Muller Paz

The Greater Baltimore Democratic Socialists of America are proud to endorse Franca Muller Paz to represent District 12 in the Baltimore City Council!

Franca is a Baltimore City school teacher who has served three terms as an elected representative of the Baltimore Teachers Union. Franca has an impressive history of activism, organizing, and coalition-building that aligns closely with the platform and mission of GBDSA. She has organized her students through youth-led movements such as SOMOS (Students Organizing a Multicultural Open Society) and won meaningful victories in the effort to close the digital divide for students during the COVID-19 crisis.

Franca has connections to many other grassroots organizing groups throughout the Baltimore area, including CASA de Maryland, the Baltimore Bern Unit, Unidos Con Bernie, and GBDSA, to name a few. She is working with existing mutual aid networks to build capacity and connect District 12 residents to resources throughout the course of her campaign. Rather than waiting until she takes office, she has already taken action to bring relief to people who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, especially Black, Latinx, low-income and working-class residents who have been disproportionately harmed. If she wins, Franca plans to continue to fight for more resources to combat the COVID-19 crisis and to transform her campaign structure into a summer job program for youth.

Franca’s stances on the issues closely align with the official GBDSA Platform.

To highlight just a few examples, Franca stands with GBDSA on the planks outlined below:

  • Abolish the Baltimore Police Department (BPD)
    • Because Franca is committed to defunding the BPD, and broader abolitionist politics, her campaign represents a strategic opportunity for our Defund BPD campaign.
  • Workers' Rights
    • Franca has also demonstrated a commitment to building the political power of working-class communities. She is committed to fighting for workers, raising the city’s minimum wage, and supporting unionization struggles. Her campaign rejects corporate donations and is led by students, organizers, and community leaders.
  • Safe and Dignified Housing
    • Franca is committed to fighting for housing support for all Baltimoreans, including those who experience homelessness and housing insecurity, through universal rent control, city-wide tenant unions, and seizure and redistribution of vacant housing to community controlled institutions like community land trusts.
  • Free Public Transit and Red Line
    • Franca recognizes that our public transit is profoundly segregated and supports the GBDSA platform to work towards free public transit and the return of plans to implement the Red Line.
  • Direct Election of School Board Members
    • Franca stands with GBDSA in calling for a school board that is democratically elected by community stakeholders, including students, parents, teachers, social workers, and school support staff. As an education access advocate for immigrant students in Baltimore, she is also calling for REAL school choice, equitable school funding, and a commitment to recognizing that black lives matter in schools—in terms of hiring, curriculum, and anti-racism training for school staff.
  • Non-Cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
    • Franca is fighting to maintain separation between ICE and the Baltimore Police Department and against any efforts to build adult or youth immigration detention facilities, or to have pre-existing facilities serve as detention centers. She is also pushing City Hall to provide translation service funding for all Baltimore City agencies, and plans to empower the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs Community Advisory Board to represent the diverse voices of immigrant communities from various ethnic, racial, and economic backgrounds.

A victory in District 12 for Franca Muller Paz would shift the politics of the Baltimore City Council and provide meaningful opportunities for base-building and political education in our efforts to abolish the BPD, build working class power, and continue the fight for racial and economic justice in the Greater Baltimore area.

Baltimore City Charter Amendments

Charter Revision Commission (Question E)

The charter revision commission amendment proposes that a Charter Revision Committee be appointed every 10 years to review and make recommendations for revisions, additions, and deletions.

The commission will be made up of 9 registered voters. The Mayor, the President of the City Council, and the Comptroller will appoint 3 members each to the Commission, ensuring that the Mayor does not have full power over the commission. No person holding elected office can be on the Commission and the Commission will hold 1 public hearing for input.

This charter amendment implements an official process for reviewing the charter. The proposed process is done mostly behind closed doors with the exception of one public hearing towards the end. The amendment does not outline next steps for the Commission’s recommendations except submitting a report to the Mayor and City Council.

We recommend voting for this charter amendment.

Ordinance of Estimates (Question F)

The city charter currently enables Baltimore’s “Strong Mayor” system of governance, hobbling the effectiveness of the city council and removing many of the checks on mayoral power that other cities enjoy. We should constantly seek the democratization of government, and removal of the “Strong Mayor” system is a large step in that direction.

At present time, when Baltimore’s Mayor introduces a budget, the city council is unable to increase funding beyond the level proposed, nor can they move funding around to uses that the council considers to be priorities. This means that the city council has no true input into the city’s budget.

This charter amendment would allow the city council to reallocate funding in the city budget, marking a significant rebalancing of power between the mayor and city council.

We recommend voting for this charter amendment.

Vetoes (Question G)

This amendment would reduce the number of city council votes necessary to override a mayoral veto from 12 to 10. This amendment represents another opportunity to dismantle Baltimore’s “Strong Mayor” system and better democratize our city government.

We recommend voting for this charter amendment.

Note: A printing mistake has been announced regarding Ballot Question G. The printed ballots include an erroneous extra line of text about taking away the mayor’s line item budget veto. Ballot Question G only pertains to reducing the number of city council votes necessary to override a mayoral veto as we’ve outlined above.

Veto Timing (Question H)

This amendment will allow the City Council greater opportunity to override a Mayoral veto. Currently there is a loophole preventing the city council from overriding a mayoral veto if a City Councilmeeting isn’t scheduled within a certain time frame. This amendment modifies and clarifies the time within which the Council may consider to override a mayoral veto. This is another amendment aimed at weakening Baltimore’s “Strong Mayor” system.

We recommend voting for this charter amendment.

Removal of Elected Officials (Question I)

This amendment would institute a process for removal of the mayor, city council members (including the president), and city comptroller. Removal would require ¾ approval from city council members, and for the following reasons: incompetency, misconduct in office, wilful neglect of duty, or felony or misdemeanor in office. Such charges can be brought forward by the City Council's Committee on Legislative Investigations or by the Inspector General. It was unanimously supported by the city council and adopted without the mayor’s signature. This amendment was introduced by Councilman Burnett after the Healthy Holly scandal involving former Mayor Cathrine Pugh. While the ¾ threshold seems high, this charter amendment would create a process for removal of elected officials, which has previously been sorely lacking.

We recommend voting for this charter amendment.

City Auditor (Question J)

This charter amendment authorizes the City Auditor to issue subpoenas to certain individuals and entities. The City Auditor is required to provide audit reports to the agency audited, the Comptroller, and members of the Board of Estimates. This amendment solidifies the city Auditor’s ability to subpoena and clarifies that the agency audited will also receive a complete audit report.

We recommend voting for this charter amendment.

City Administrator (Question K)

This charter amendment would establish the position of City Administrator as the Chief Administrative Officer of Baltimore City. The resolution frames the role of the Mayor as the “Chief Executive Officer of the City” who would appoint and directly supervise the City Administrator.

The City Administrator would be appointed by the Mayor (subject to confirmation by the City Council) and must be a Baltimore City resident and registered voter of Baltimore City at the time of appointment and throughout their entire term of office. The City Administrator would need at least 5 years of public administration experience to be considered qualified for the position.

Below are a list of powers and duties of the proposed City Administrator as outlined in the resolution:

  • Administers the day-to-day operations of the City and oversee the delivery of municipal services;
  • Exercises supervisory authority over all agencies, department directors, and municipal officers;
  • Approves rules and regulations proposed by municipal departments and agencies;
  • Supervises the preparation of the City’s preliminary operating budget and participate in the development of the proposed Ordinance of Estimates;
  • Advises the Mayor in the formation of policy and the implementation of plans to address demands for municipal services, enhance the quality of life, and strengthen the economic vitality of the City;
  • Performs duties delegated by the Mayor that are not inconsistent with this Charter; and
  • Performs any other duty as required by this Charter or required by ordinance of the Mayor and City Council.

So is this a good idea?

Below are some arguments for establishing a City Administrator position in Baltimore City:

  • A city administrator would be responsible for the daily operation of Baltimore City agencies. Theoretically they would provide for a more efficient and effective government, as they are focused on improving performance in City agencies, and increasing government responsiveness to resident's needs.
  • A city administrator provides direct accountability for the proper operation of city services. A dissatisfied Mayor can remove the City Administrator (without cause) in writing to the City Council at any time. The City Council would then take a ratification vote following receipt of the Mayor’s removal letter.
  • City Council may become more productive as they wouldn’t have to focus on administration of City services. This means they might be able to spend more time focusing on policy issues and constituent outreach.
  • The City Administrator may be able to help City Council make more informed decisions as the Administrator will provide information and analysis on City operations.
  • The administrator would serve a term of the same extent as the Mayor, however the City Administrator may continue to serve beyond the Mayor’s term until a qualified successor is appointed and confirmed. Therefore a City Administrator could provide continuity when a Mayor is removed from office (for instance when a Mayor loses re-election, or when a Mayor pleads guilty to federal fraud, tax and conspiracy charges involving sales of self-published children's books).
  • An experienced administrator can be hired to minimize weaknesses in the mayor's management background or experience - However, the Mayor would directly supervise the appointed Administrator.
  • Most Maryland Counties already follow a City Administrator model: Baltimore City is one of only four Maryland Counties without a Chief Administrative Officer.
  • This is another measure focused on dismantling Baltimore’s “Strong Mayor” system of government.

Below are some arguments against establishing a City Administrator position in Baltimore City:

  • The City Administrator is not directly accountable to the public.
  • With a City Administrator taking the role of overseeing City Operations, there is concern that a Mayor (or even City Council members) could utilize the City Administrator as a scapegoat for unpopular operational changes.
  • The resolution frames the relationship between Mayor and City Administrator as akin to a Chief Executive Officer and a Chief Administrative Officer. We are against the belief that the government should be run like a corporation. It’s one thing to make operational changes to meet citizen needs, but talk of running a government like a business can quickly lead to implementation of austerity measures that punish Baltimore citizens as part of a strategy to make government “more efficient”.
  • The resolution states that the City Administrator would be paid a salary no less than $200,000. That is a lot of money. It's actually more than the Mayor’s salary (about $190,000).
  • Since this is just a salaried position, the Administrator could technically leave at will if offered a higher salary in another city!

So where do we stand? We’re honestly a bit torn on this one. In what ways would a corrupt mayor benefit from having a City Administrator? Could a future mayor use the Administrator as a scapegoat when pushing through austerity measures? Are there sufficient checks and balances? Are our concerns unfounded? Time will tell. We do not have a specific recommendation for or against this charter amendment.

Baltimore County Charter Amendments

Citizens' Election Fund System (Question A)

This charter amendment would establish a public election fund in Baltimore County similar to those passed in Baltimore City, Montgomery, Howard, and Prince George's Counties. The intent of such a fund is to enable people who don’t have access to large sums of money to run for office, compete, and win. The eligibility parameters would be determined by the county council through the legislative process, but typically candidates will be required to meet a threshold of small dollar donations while rejecting any non-individual contributions. If they qualify, the fund would match their donations at predetermined rates set by the passed legislation. Public election funds are an important way to make the political process more equitable and accessible to working class people. More elected officials not tied to lobbyists, developers, and other corporate interests will likely result in policies rooted in economic, racial, and environmental justice.

As a coalition member of the Baltimore Fair Elections Campaign, the Greater Baltimore DSA fights for a future where elections are determined by working people instead of monied interests. Public financing presents an opportunity to completely change the relationship between elected officials and their constituents.

We recommend voting for this charter amendment.