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Majority of council would reject moving city elections

September 20, 2008|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN - A majority of the City Council said this week that they would reject a proposal from the Hagerstown Charter Review Committee to change the way municipal elections are held.

Earlier this year, the committee suggested shifting the months that the city holds primary elections from March to September, and the general elections from May to November.

The committee also proposed changing elections from partisan to nonpartisan, meaning the top 10 vote-getters in the City Council primary - regardless of party affiliation - would advance to the general election.

As it stands, voters choose five Democrats and five Republicans during the primary. Voters then select the top five candidates in the general election to serve on the council.

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Only Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said he would support nonpartisan elections, but he voted with the majority of the council to keep the municipal election dates in place.

Councilman Martin E. Brubaker remained undecided on both issues. He said his instinct had him leaning toward maintaining the existing system, but he would consider holding the elections at a different time because the city could save money.

Washington County Board of Elections Director Dorothy Kaetzel said last month that the city could have saved about $60,000 during the last municipal election in 2005. Had that election been held at the same time as the presidential election in 2004 or the gubernatorial election in 2006, she said, the state would have paid most of the cost.

The majority of the council agreed that the state and federal races would overshadow those of the city if they were placed on the same ballot.

Councilwoman Penny M. Nigh said if that were the case, senior citizens might get confused by having to sort through multiple issues on election day.

"It's not that change is bad," Nigh said by telephone Thursday. "It's just that sometimes change upsets the apple cart."

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