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Election-board bill heard in Senate committee

March 03, 2011|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS — A proposal to change the structure of the Washington County Board of Elections was heard Thursday in a state Senate committee — minus the friction of last month.

Sen. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, filed a bill that would elevate two alternate members into full members, with voting privileges.

Shank said the bill matches similar efforts under way in other counties.

The bill was the subject of a dispute a few weeks ago, sparked by the opposition of Washington County's current board to the idea.

After Shank had filed the bill in the Senate, the Washington County delegation convened to discuss whether to file a House version.

Ultimately, the delegation went ahead with a bill, but only after Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, accused Shank of trying to bully Eileen W. Wiggins, the election board president.

Shank replied that he and Wiggins, a Democrat, had a heated phone conversation, but he denied making the comments that Wiggins had alleged and Donoghue repeated during a Feb. 9 Washington County delegation meeting.

The Washington County Board of Elections doesn't support the proposed change to the board.

The board has three full members and two alternates. Bill supporters say alternates do significant work and get nearly as much pay, so they should have voting rights, too.

Board members get $4,500 a year. The president gets $5,000 a year.

Alternates get $75 per monthly meeting, plus $15 an hour for supervising elections, training poll workers and other duties.

The bill also gives the Washington County Commissioners the authority to set the pay for election board members.

The hearing on Shank's bill before the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee was uneventful.

Last month, Wiggins said in a telephone interview that, despite her opposition, she didn't plan to testify against Shank's bill.

The Washington County Commissioners voted 4-1 in favor of supporting the bill last month, with only Commissioner John F. Barr, a former election board member, opposed.

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