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Hancock begins changing town election laws

April 13, 2000|By SCOTT BUTKI

The Hancock Town Council has begun the process of changing the town's election laws but the mayor said Thursday he has no plan to revive a proposal to increase the mayor's term of office to four years.

The Town Council appeared split during its Wednesday night meeting on the question of extending the two-year term, and Mayor Daniel Murphy said he has no intention of breaking a tie on the change.

"It was not a personal thing for me. I can take it or leave it," Murphy said Thursday. Such a change would not affect his present term.

Mayors in Funkstown, Hagerstown and Smithsburg serve four-year terms, while those in Clear Spring and Hancock are elected to two-year terms, Murphy said.

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The change was suggested by Hancock Board of Supervisors of Elections member Lowell Younker.

During Wednesday's Hancock Town Council meeting, Councilman Darwin Mills said he opposes lengthening the term for the mayoral office. Town residents should be able to vote a mayor out of office after two years if they want, he said.

"If you get a bad person in, it's better to have them in for two years than four," Councilman Greg Yost agreed.

Councilman David Smith said, "I think it would give more stability." He later said he was undecided.

The council voted unanimously to follow state election code provisions provided they "fit in the legal framework of the town charter."

If adopted, changes would result in the town switching the deadline to register to vote from the Saturday before a Monday election to 30 days before the election.

The council also voted to extend the hours for balloting in town elections from the current noon to 7 p.m. to 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

To make the changes, the Town Council must amend the town charter, which would require at least one public hearing, Murphy said. It will, therefore, be a few months before any changes are made, he said.

The goal is to complete the changes in time for the next town election, which is in January 2001, Murphy said.

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