Hagerstown to discuss changing dates of elections to save money

August 19, 2008|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- The City of Hagerstown could save thousands of dollars by changing the dates on which municipal elections are held.

The city spent $61,660 to hold its primary election in March 2005 and its general election later that May, said Dorothy Kaetzel, elections director for the Washington County Board of Elections.

Only a fraction of that cost - or about $1,100 - would have been spent if the municipal elections were held during the 2004 presidential election or the last gubernatorial election in 2006, Kaetzel said. In those cases, the state paid a majority of the election costs.

"(The City of Hagerstown) wouldn't have any of the expenses," Kaetzel said. "We tried to convince them but they didn't seem receptive. They thought they would be overshadowed."


During its work session today, the Hagerstown City Council is to discuss amending the city charter to, among other things, change the months of the primary election from March to September, and the general election from May to November. If the council adopts such an amendment, the elections in November still would be held in the years between the gubernatorial and presidential elections.

Douglas Wright, a member of the City of Hagerstown Charter Review Committee, the organization that suggested the amendment, said last month that the committee believed the municipal elections should not be held with the state and national elections to prevent city issues from taking a back seat.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said Monday he didn't think the trouble that could be caused by combining the elections would be worth the savings.

"I don't think a majority of municipalities think it's worth it, either," Metzner said.

According to the Maryland Municipal League, of the state's 157 municipalities, only eight will hold their elections this year to coincide with the presidential election.

Metzner said he also favors the charter review committee's recommendation to hold nonpartisan elections at the municipal level because the council is capable of working together regardless of political affiliation.

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