Thank you for visiting our website

Featuring breaking political news and commentary on local, state, and national issues.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Special Election Effort For Charter Board Fails

George Wenschhof

In a letter to the Frederick County Board of Commissioners, Election Director Stuart Harvey informed them the petition effort to call for a special election had failed.

The total certified signatures by the Frederick County Board of Elections numbered 1,741, which turned out to be 259 short of the required 2,000 signatures. A total of 2,915 signatures were reviewed by elections staff.

The effort to change the form of government to charter in Frederick County started off in a bumpy fashion as some questioned the make up of the charter writing board appointed by the Board of County Commissioners.

The state constitution allows for a petition challenge to an appointed charter writing board if 2,000 verified signatures are obtained within sixty days from the appointment. If, successful, a special election would then be held with voters determining who would serve of the charter writing board from among the nine who were appointed and the eight who appeared on the petition.

The main argument for a special election was the appointed board had a heavy weight of representation from the development field. This argument, following what was a "growth" versus "no-growth" major theme in last year's county commissioner election, won by a majority of what some would classified as developer friendly candidates.

The main argument against the special election was the purported cost of $250,000.

I opined throughout the process, I was not opposed to the effort as the state constitution provided an opportunity for voters to petition for a special election to determine the make up of the charter writing board. However, I added I had not been convinced to sign the petition.

The changing of the manner in which the community you reside, is governed, is indeed a major change and should be treated as such. Providing an opportunity for a special election showed the wisdom of those who wrote that particular section of the Maryland constitution.

You can see a summary of the categories which led to rejection by the election staff here. The highest number of rejected signatures (584) was based on the name standard. I wrote earlier in the week, the name must match how it appears on the state voter registration.

One area of contention, was the listing at the top of the petition page of the required mention of "Maryland Constitution Article XI-A, Section 1A". In the letter sent to the commissioners from Mr. Harvey, he spells out how they resolved what appeared to be a lack of clarity to the petitioners prior to when they were advised what was needed. As a result, all signatures were verified and only pages which omitted the reference after the advice was given were tossed out. These disqualified signatures did not add up to enough to have failed the effort.

I believe petitioners still have the opportunity to seek a stay of the election staff decision and force another review of the signatures which were submitted.

However, with a shortfall of 259 signatures, it would be tough to make up in a review. At this point, it would be prudent for those who wish certain sections of the charter be written in a particular manner, that they take advantage of the community outreach being conducted by the appointed charter writing board

How the county executive and county council are balanced, whether council members are elected at large or by districts are just two of the many areas of the charter, members of the Frederick county community should weigh in on. Let you preference be heard and encourage others to do the same.

When the charter is complete, a yes or no question will appear on the ballot in the 2012 general election and the voters will have the final say on the matter, as it should be.

Stay Tuned...

No comments: