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City voters to decide election dates

February 24, 2009|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- Hagerstown voters will decide at the polls in May whether to change the dates on which municipal elections are held.

The Hagerstown City Council on Tuesday voted 5-0 to place the issue on the ballot during the city's May 19 general election, when voters also will choose the next mayor and council.

The city currently holds its primary elections in March and its general elections in May in years that do not coincide with the gubernatorial and presidential elections. If voters decide to change the dates, municipal elections after the one this year would coincide with future presidential elections.

The next municipal election would be held in 2012 if the dates are changed, meaning the mayor and council elected this year would serve 3 1/2 years instead of four.

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Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said Tuesday before the meeting that the council wanted to distance itself from the issue by letting the voters decide.

"Whenever (elected officials) start messing around with the way elections are held ... You're subject to criticism that you're trying to rig it to your advantage," he said.

Last month, Paul Muldowney, a member of the City Elections Board, said the council's earlier opposition to change the election dates was self-serving because elections in March and May have lower turnouts that benefit the incumbents.

Dorothy Kaetzel, director of the Washington County Board of Elections, said last year that the elections board was too busy in March and May to manage the city's elections. As a result, she said, the city would have to change the dates that municipal are held or manage its own.

Kaetzel added more to the mix, saying the city's cost to hold its own elections would be about $60,000. If the city would change election dates to coincide with the gubernatorial or presidential cycle, she said, the city's expense would be minimal because the state would pay a majority of the cost.

Kaetzel told city officials earlier this month that the city's cost to change the election to the gubernatorial or presidential cycle would be about $3,000.

How they voted:



Martin E. Brubaker, yes

Kelly S. Cromer, yes

Lewis C. Metzner, yes

Penny M. Nigh, yes

Alesia D. Parson-McBean, yes

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