BREAKING NEWS ALERT:
Stephanie Rawlings-Blake glided to victory in the Democratic primary Tuesday, securing the nomination for a full four-year term in the office to which she was appointed last year.
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Baltimore voters headed to the polls this morning, casting their ballots for mayor in a crowded primary race that could change the direction of the city.
But as of 7 p.m., less than 17 percent of eligible voters — about 54,000 people — had cast ballots, a number Baltimore City Elections Director Armstead Jones called "light."
He said the city is on pace to have about 20 percent of its eligible voters cast ballots by the end of the day. Jones reported "no major issues" in the morning's voting.
At Fort Worthington Elementary School in East Baltimore, only 44 people had voted within the first hour, election judges said.
East Baltimore resident Lisa McCray said she had nothing against Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, but preferred challenger Catherine Pugh, a state senator. "I like her outlook on things," McCray said, adding that the most important issues for her were schools and crime.
Angela Lyles, 46, of East Baltimore, said she voted for Rawlings-Blake, who assumed the position last year when then-Mayor Sheila Dixon stepped down under a plea agreement to settle corruption and perjury charges.
"I want to give her a full term," Lyles said of Rawlings-Blake. "She needs to get a fair chance."
In the Democratic mayoral primary, Rawlings-Blake faces five challengers: Pugh, Court Clerk Frank M. Conaway, Otis Rolley, Joseph T. "Jody" Landers and Wilton Wilson. That primary, in the overwhelmingly Democratic city, usually determines the next mayor.
Voters will also cast ballots today for City Council President and other council races. City election officials predicted a light turnout.
Robert and Margaret Jackson — an East Baltimore couple married for 56 years — said they came out to the polls early to vote for the candidates, including Rawlings-Blake, endorsed by the AFL-CIO union.
Robert Jackson, 77, said he believed Rawlings-Blake could help improve schools, while his wife said she earned respect for the mayor when Rawlings-Blake attended an event for adult illiteracy.
"That made me see her in a positive light," Margaret Jackson said.
City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young stopped by the polling station to greet election judges, he said.
Young said he had been driving around to bus stops encouraging people to vote. "I know they're predicting light turnout, but I hope that's not the case," he said.
Young, who faces multiple challengers to his seat, said he did not take the race lightly. "People need to get out and exercise their right to vote," he said.
At St. Leo's Catholic Church in Little Italy, voters trickled in slowly. By 10:37 a.m., 50 voters had cast ballots; an hour later the count was up to 54.
Alan Shapiro, the chief Democratic election judge, said the location has seen low turnout in recent years, and blamed voter apathy.