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Voters weigh in on election dates

May 17, 2009|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- Hagerstown residents won't have the final say Tuesday when they vote on whether to change the dates of city elections.

City Attorney William Nairn said that regardless of what happens during Tuesday's balloting, it will be up to the City Council to make the final decision.

"It's not a mandatory ballot question," Nairn said. "The council would have to pass it."

A vote in favor of the question reflects the voter is in favor of changing the dates on which the city holds its elections to coincide with the presidential election. A vote against the ballot question would indicate a preference for maintaining the status quo.

If that change were made, future primaries would be held in February and future general elections would be held in November.

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The city's primary and general elections currently are held in March and May in the years between the gubernatorial and presidential elections.

In February, the Hagerstown City Council voted 5-0 to put the question on the ballot. The council took the step after Washington County election officials said moving the elections to coincide with gubernatorial or presidential elections would save taxpayers about $60,000 per election cycle. If the elections were changed, the state -- rather than the city -- would pay a majority of the cost, election officials said.

Dorothy Kaetzel, director of the Washington County Board of Elections, said Thursday she believes the city should have proposed changing the municipal elections to coincide with gubernatorial balloting. In those cases, the primary is held in September and the general election is held in November.

"That would be perfect for them," Kaetzel said.

It is too late to change the question, Kaetzel said, because some absentee ballots already have been returned.

The election issue is unlikely to be voted on by the existing council, City Attorney Nairn said. That decision probably would be considered by the next council after it takes office on June 1.

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