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Town charter stuck in the past

August 06, 1997

By DAVE McMILLION

Staff Writer

KEEDYSVILLE - Women's suffrage dates back to 1920 in the United States, but in Keedysville the town charter still reads like voting was for men only.

Seventy-six years after women won the right to vote, the Keedysville charter still contains language saying "male citizens" will select a mayor and council members.

The issue surfaced Monday night when Town Council members discussed revising local ordinances and making sure they follow the charter. Town resident Anne Leffler said she does not consider the charter language a threat to her voting rights, but if the town ever considered reviewing the charter, it should be changed.

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Leffler recommended the changes to Mayor Ralph Taylor and the council Monday, although town officials said they do not know whether they will remove the reference.

"It's kind of tongue-in-cheek. I couldn't resist," Leffler said.

"Nobody has ever complained about it. This is the first time it has even come up," said Taylor, who added it would take "near an act of Congress" to make the change.

The council could remove the language, but the action would have to be approved by town voters, Taylor said.

"The rest of the town doesn't have any problem with it. We've never had any complaints," said Council Member Bobby Slick.

Even though the old language is still in the charter, it was superseded when Congress passed the 19th Amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing women the right to vote.

Taylor said the town also passed ordinances reflecting the 19th Amendment.

The charter said "the male citizens of Keedysville" shall select a mayor, assistant mayor and three council members, who will have "in all respects, the same qualifications as the voters."

Other government officials in the county were surprised Wednesday that the language still existed. Dorothy Kaetzel of the Washington County Election Board said she did not know of any other town in the county that still has charter language like Keedysville's.

After being informed about the old law, Hagerstown City Clerk Gann Breichner became curious about her own city's charter. She dug back into the books and surprisingly found that, as of 1923, the city charter still only referred to men as the qualified voters of Hagerstown.

She was still searching Wednesday to see when the city might have changed the language.

Leffler said she also does not like the way the town's elections are set up. Nominations for office are held one week before the election, which does not give residents enough opportunity to file, Leffler said.

Also, the two-hour voting period needs to be extended, Leffler said.

Taylor said the town's filing rules are flexible and are not necessarily limited to a week.

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