Hagerstown City Council to discuss changes to charter for city elections

April 11, 2011|By KATE S. ALEXANDER |

HAGERSTOWN — The Hagerstown City Council today will discuss proposed changes to its charter for city elections, including whether it plans to continue requiring candidates to report campaign finances.

The council will meet at 3 p.m. at City Hall to discuss the upcoming election.

The city primary and general elections will be held in 2012, in conjunction with the presidential elections and the elections of other federal offices, according to city documents.

As part of the proposed changes to the charter, Hagerstown would eliminate its election board, putting its elections in the hands of the Washington County Board of Elections.

City Clerk Donna Spickler said the role of the city election board has changed drastically and that, as it exists in the city charter, it does not have a role in future elections. In the past, the city and county election boards worked together to conduct off-year elections, she said.

Voters decided in a 2009 ballot question that they wanted the city to adopt the state election schedule, which would align Hagerstown's elections with presidential elections, which are run locally by the county board, Spickler said.

The county election board will facilitate the election, but it has said it will not take city finance reporting forms, she said.

Spickler said Maryland election law dictates that campaign finance reporting does not apply to municipalities.

Historically, the city reports went to the county, she said.  

City Attorney William Nairn researched campaign finance reporting for the April 12 meeting, according to city documents. Nairn also found that the reports are not required for municipal elections, the document said.

"The decision of whether or not to require the reports would be up to the Mayor and Council," the document said.

With no other role remaining for the city election board, and no state requirement for campaign finance reporting, city staff is asking the council to decide it if wants to require candidates to file finance reports and, if so, to define a collection process.

One option could be to have city staff collect the reports, Spickler said. Another could be an appointed board to collect the reports.

Nairn has prepared a list of options if the council wants to require finance reporting, Spickler said.

In addition to the reports, the council will discuss places in the city for the county's early-voting site.

On March 15, the council said it would like to see the early-voting site remain in the city and suggested the county could use space in the Elizabeth Hager Center.

City staff and members of the Washington County Board of Elections toured the Elizabeth Hager Center and found that the two most-likely areas in the building were not ideal or suitable for a voting site, according to city documents.

"The county is reviewing other sites, which may be more suitable," the documents said.

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