It's time for another look at a ward-system council
Though it's been almost 20 years since he held elected office, former Hagerstown councilmember Larry Vaughn is running again, promising that if elected, he'll work to bring back the ward system. Another former councilmember, Ira Kauffman Jr., is making the same pledge. Whatever voters feel about these candidates, it would be a mistake not to take another look at the ward system's pros and cons.
The ward system was eliminated because proponents felt that councilmembers were only looking out for their own constituents, and not for the city as a whole. Having candidates run at-large would eliminate the periodic redistricting mandated under the U.S. Supreme Court's "one-man, one-vote rule." At-large backers also felt it would improve the overall quality of the candidates.
But voter turnout has fallen from 47 percent in the 1981 to just under 22 percent in the 1997 election. And because the city's North End has traditionally provided the strongest turnout, it's no surprise that all the council members now reside there.