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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Charter Petition Votes Should Be Counted

George Wenschhof

The push back from the Frederick Board of County Commissioners and the local mainstream media against the efforts to hold a special election for the members of the charter writing board is unfair and unjust.

As one who has long supported a change to charter government in Frederick County, Maryland, I have opined I was not convinced to sign the petition being circulated to force a special election for the members of the charter writing board.

If successful, eight petition candidates would be on a ballot, facing the nine appointed members, in a special election, estimated to cost two-hundred and fifty thousand dollars.

In a column dated 5-18-2011, I wrote, in part, that regardless of my personal opinion, voters have the right under the Maryland constitution to petition for such vote. I went on to criticize the administrative guidelines provided to local board of elections staff to be used in determining the validity of the signatures on the petition.

One of the most sacrosanct components of representative democracy in the United States, and one which sets us apart from many nations around the world, is the right to have one's vote count.

Invalidating a vote due to a lack of a middle initial, regardless of whether instructions were available to those gathering signatures, simply fails a fairness doctrine prevalent in American democracy.

Former Frederick County commissioner, John "Lenny Thompson", a lawyer by profession, will argue the case, pro bono, in front of Frederick County Circuit Court. He should argue on the behalf of those potential candidates on the petition, those who gathered the signatures, those who signed the petition and all voters in Frederick County. All of who, were harmed by the decision by the board of elections to disqualify signatures and invalidate the petition.

I further opined in my previously mentioned column, Mr. Thompson should argue for a stay in the deliberations of the current appointed charter board, until such time as a legal ruling has been made.

Thompson never received my vote during the time he served in office and I place a large degree of blame on him for the incendiary rhetoric which exists today between the so called "growth" versus "no-growth" factions in Frederick county. His often used slogan "Don't Let the Developers Win" only served to further divide voters. When, I believe what is needed are more efforts to unite our community.

However, he is right to argue this case and I trust his legal expertise is up to the day in court which will hopefully come soon.

The latest local media reports have focused on the personalities of some of those who supported and were involved in the petition in a seemingly manner to further erode the credibility of the overall effort to hold a special election.

Who was involved in the petition effort or whether they convinced you to sign the petition is not the issue to be weighed when determining the eligibility of one's vote and whether a special election will be held. As, I already stated, I did not sign the petition. However, if a special election is held, the efforts behind the petition effort is important and will be weighed along with other factors by voters when they cast their ballot.

The strength of our democracy should not be judged based on whether the media or those in elected office share a prevailing view, but rather on everyone being treated equally and the right to have one's vote count being upheld in a court of law.

Democracy should also never be argued over the basis of cost, as it is too precious a right.

I trust the court review to make the right decision and to count the intended votes. If, after the recount is concluded, a special election is held, all Frederick County voters can weigh in on who should serve on the charter writing board.

Then, the work toward writing a charter should begin.

Stay Tuned...


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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm glad we have one voice of reason in the media on this and not just personality - as one likely left off the list because of middle initial, I want to be counted!