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Council discusses election date change

November 17, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - One Hagerstown city councilman's proposal to change the city's general election to coincide with national elections was shelved Tuesday night.

Councilman N. Linn Hendershot last month called for a discussion to move the elections held every four years for city officials to November to coincide with presidential elections. He said he believed it would attract more voters.

During a follow-up discussion held during Tuesday's council work session, the other council members said they were not interested in a change.

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"I think at this point, it's a dead issue," said William Nairn, the city attorney who looked into election laws for the discussion.

Officials said during the meeting that in the last city election, about 12 percent of the city's eligible voters turned out, and council members only needed fewer than 2,000 votes to be seated.

On Tuesday, Hendershot said holding the city elections in May discouraged people from voting because schools are open, unlike during presidential elections, and by teaming the city elections with national elections, more people likely would turn out to vote.

That argument fell flat with Councilman Lewis C. Metzner.

"I'm not interested in somebody going to the polls just to vote," Metzner said. He said he would rather someone be moved to go to the polls because they had an opinion on issues affecting the city.

Councilwoman Penny M. Nigh said she agreed.

"If you're gonna vote, then you're going to go to the polls," Nigh said. She said that on Nov. 2, she was only concerned with one issue, and "I didn't really want to be bothered with too much else."

Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire said, "I don't think a small vote turnout signifies a broken system," and said he believed city elections would get "lost in the shuffle" of a national election.

Aleshire and Metzner said that large partisan turnouts for the national election could unfavorably sway the city election. The City Council is made up mostly of Democrats.

Metzner said the change would be unfair to new council members because of the budget cycle. Under the current election calendar, council members have about eight months before annual budget talks begin. Under a November election cycle, new council members would begin budget talks almost immediately.

Councilwoman Carol N. Moller said she wouldn't favor the change either.

"I think it would be dreadful," Moller said.

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