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Friday, November 28, 2008

Time to Move Election Date for City of Frederick, MD

George Wenschhof

January 2009 will not only bring the swearing in of Barack Obama as the 44th President, it will also mark the month candidates can begin filing for office in the City of Frederick, Maryland election. The elected offices up for grabs will be the Mayor and five Aldermen.

The City of Frederick is a charter government with what is known as a strong Mayor, who is the elected administrator and a five member Board of Alderman who act more as a legislative branch.

The key dates to keep in mind are as follows: January 5, 2009 - first day candidates can file for office, July 7, 2009 - the last day candidates are able to file for office, September 15, 2009 - Primary Election Day, and November 3, 2009 - General Election Day.

While this off-year election hypothetically brings more attention to the city race as the Mayor and Alderman are the only positions on the ballot, the voter turnout for the general election has only averaged around 30 per cent. This is an embarrassing low percentage of voters determining the political leaders of what is argued to be the second largest city in the state of Maryland.

The just concluded Presidential election is every four years and only includes on the ballot the local Representative in Congress which is held every two years and sometimes a U.S. Senate seat which is held every six years. This election receives the highest participation of voters with an excess of 70% of the registered voters.

The next highest voter participation occurs in the state and county elections held every four years with the next election in 2010. The ballot in this election is very crowded with the many state and county positions. In the 2006 election, the voter turnout in the state and Frederick County was 58%.

It would seem reasonable to move the City of Frederick election to coincide with the Presidential election. This would ensure a higher turnout of voters and most likely also result in cost savings by the Frederick County Board of Elections as a separate election year would be eliminated.

If this election date change was enacted by the current Mayor and Board, as a result of a charter amendment, the 2009 City of Frederick election would be held as scheduled. The 2009 elected Mayor and Board would serve a three year term with subsequent city elections beginning in 2012 resulting in the traditional four year term. This charter amendment changing the future date of city elections to coincide with the Presidential election would more than double the current voter turnout in the City of Frederick general election.

The City of Frederick continues to face serious growth related issues and will certainly face financial hardships as our nation grapples with the current economic crisis. It is no longer acceptable for a small number of registered voters to control who the elected leaders will be for the City.

It is past time to make this change to increase voter participation in the City of Frederick election.


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Mike said...

Great idea George! Have you talked to Jeff or the BoA about this.

Anonymous said...

I agree, this would be a easy change for the current mayor and board to make. Why hasn't it been done?