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Hagerstown charter amended to move municipal election dates

Under the new schedule, the city primary will be held on April 3, 2012, and the general election on Nov. 6, 2012

June 23, 2011|By KATE S. ALEXANDER | kate.alexander@herald-mail.com

A change overwhelmingly supported by voters in the last city election will soon take effect in the city of Hagerstown.

The Hagerstown City Council amended its charter Tuesday night to move the city's municipal election dates to coincide with U.S. presidential elections — a measure strongly favored by voters on the 2009 ballot.

Under the new schedule, the city primary will be held on April 3, 2012, and the general election on Nov. 6, 2012.

The charter amendments will take effect on Aug. 10, according to city documents.

Previously, the city held its primary elections in March and general elections in May during years that did not coincide with gubernatorial or presidential elections.

During the last municipal election in 2009, Hagerstown voters answered a nonbinding referendum question and told the city that they favored changing the election date, City Clerk Donna Spickler said previously.

The vote was 2,451 in favor of the change and 462 against, according to the Herald-Mail.

The previous council unanimously decided to put the question on the ballot after election officials told the council that the city could save $60,000 to $125,000 if the dates of the elections were changed, the newspaper said.

City Attorney William Nairn said that the council is not required to follow the will of the people expressed in a nonbinding referendum.

And while moving the elections will shorten the term of currently seated council members, that did not deter the four members present from voting in favor of the change Tuesday.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner was absent Tuesday.

As part of the amendments, the council also removed all references to the city Board of Supervisors of Elections from the charter.

Among its duties, the city board oversaw the registration of voters, nominations and city elections, according to previous charter language.

City elections will be conducted by the Washington County Board of Elections starting in 2012, according to the amended charter.

County Election Director Kaye Robucci said the county  board will pay $12,000 out of its fiscal 2011 budget to fund the election date change.

For city candidates to appear on the presidential ballots, the county's election system needs to be updated, she said.

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