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Hagerstown to consider changes to municipal elections

August 20, 2008|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- The Hagerstown City Council on Tuesday vowed to finish by the end of this year a debate that could amend the city's charter and change the way municipal elections are held.

At issue is whether the council should follow the recommendation of the City of Hagerstown Charter Review Committee to shift the months that the city's primary elections are held from March to September, and the general elections from May to November.

In addition, the council is considering changing the elections from partisan to nonpartisan, meaning the top 10 vote-getters - regardless of party affiliation - would advance from the primary to the general election.

Perhaps the biggest debate, however, is whether to alter the years the municipal elections are held to coincide with the gubernatorial and presidential ones, even though the charter review committee recommended to continue staging elections in the off years. The last election for City Council, for example, was held in 2005 - the year between the 2004 presidential election and the last gubernatorial election in 2006.

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On Monday, Dorothy Kaetzel, election director for the Washington County Board of Elections, said the city could have saved about $60,000 in 2005 had the municipal elections been held in 2004 or 2006. In those cases, the state paid most of the cost, she said.

A majority of the council agreed that the city issues would be overshadowed by the state and national issues if the municipal elections were changed.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said after the discussion that two previous councils reviewed the charter - most recently in 1981 - and concluded that the elections were being held at the appropriate times.

"I don't see anything that needs to be fixed," Metzner said. "The city elections have been this way for some 40 to 50 years. ... We really don't want to get lost in the national and state elections."

The council agreed to discuss the matter further during a work session in October.

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