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Hagerstown considers rescheduling municipal elections to later in year

July 23, 2008|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- The Hagerstown City Council will consider whether to reschedule the timing of municipal elections after a charter review committee made the recommendation during a Tuesday work session.

If the council agrees, the change would take effect in 2013.

Douglas Wright, a member of the City of Hagerstown Charter Review Committee, told the City Council that it should consider changing the time of the primary election from March to September, and the time of the general election from May to November. By moving back the dates, Wright said, officials would have more time to prepare for the elections.

In addition, the committee proposed that the city hold municipal elections in the years between the gubernatorial and presidential elections.

"(The committee) was afraid the city elections might get lost if they were held at the same time as (the state and national elections)," Wright said. "We felt it was important that the city's issues not get drowned out by these other issues."

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Wright said the committee also favored the city holding nonpartisan elections to ensure the top two vote-getters in the mayoral primary and the top 10 vote-getters in the City Council primary move on to the general election.

"After the elections, there is no Democratic block or Republican block," Wright said. "You're all working together to benefit the city."

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II and the City Council had varying thoughts about changing the timing of the elections.

Bruchey said he believed that moving the general election to the fall could improve voter turnout, while Penny M. Nigh said the proposal could have the opposite effect.

"This is another change for an aging population," Nigh said. "It might keep people from coming to the polls."

The council agreed to have the city staff research the issue further to determine, among other things, how much money it would cost the city to move the elections to a later date.

The City of Hagerstown Charter Review Committee was formed in the spring of 2007 primarily to examine the policy that is used to replace elected officials who have resigned.

Wright said after the meeting, for example, that the process didn't "go smoothly" when the council selected Bruchey to replace former Republican Mayor Richard F. Trump, who resigned Feb. 1, 2006, citing irreconcilable differences with the all-Democratic, five-member council.

"They found some areas (of the charter) where it wasn't exactly clear what to do," Wright said.

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