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School officials request city election changes

January 20, 2009|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- Washington County school officials asked the Hagerstown City Council during a joint meeting Tuesday to consider holding municipal elections on days when classes are not in session.

Because schools often are used as polling places, the proposal would eliminate the chance of someone using the confusion on election day to slip away and harm students, said Boyd Michael, assistant superintendent of school operations for Washington County Public Schools.

Michael said the proposal also would ensure that voters are not turned away on election day.

"What if we needed to lock down during an election?" Michael said. "There are challenges."

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said he didn't understand why school officials were proposing to disrupt the way municipal elections have been held for dozens of years.

"We hold elections four days a decade," Metzner said. "I don't think that's too much to ask."

Metzner suggested postponing further discussions on the issue until the next administration takes office later this year.

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The city's primary and general elections are March 10 and May 19.

If school officials are adamant about the proposal, the city could hold its elections at other venues, Metzner said.

"I don't see why we can't vote at fire stations," Metzner said. "That seems like a simplistic solution."

Last year, the City Council discussed changing the dates of municipal elections to coincide with gubernatorial or presidential ones.

Washington County election officials have said that by piggybacking on state or federal ballots, the city could save about $60,000 in election costs.

Metzner and Councilwoman Penny M. Nigh were the most vocal opponents to the change.

Nigh said she was concerned that senior citizens might get confused having to sort through multiple issues on election day.

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