Per­ryville elec­tions to con­tinue to al­low write-in can­di­dates

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - By JANE BELLMYER

PER­RYVILLE

jbellmyer@ce­cil­whig.com

— Although the dead­line for can­di­dates to of­fi­cially en­ter the town elec­tion is Mon­day af­ter­noon, the mayor and com­mis­sion­ers voted this week to con­tinue to al­low write-in can­di­dates.

Sev­eral years ago, ethics rules were changed at the state level re­quir­ing can­di­dates to file fi­nan­cial dis­clo­sure forms to qual­ify for bal­lot place­ment. Ini­tially, Per­ryville of­fi­cials had planned to elim­i­nate the write-in op­tion be­cause of the dis­clo­sure el­e­ment, which other towns had al­ready done be­cause of time con­straints.

But last Au­gust, the com­mis­sion­ers agreed to ta­ble their vote to pro­hibit writein can­di­dacy and get past the 2015 elec­tion cy­cle. Fred Suss­man, the town at­tor­ney, said then that the goal was to come up with some­thing that was fair to the vot­ers, but also ad­her­ing to state and federal elec­tions and ethics laws.

Now, work­ing with Suss­man, Per­ryville of­fi­cials ar­rived at a com­pro­mise, which al­lows for write-in can­di­dacy.

Ricky Baker won a write-in cam­paign for town com­mis­sioner in 2005. Although an in­cum­bent at the time, Baker was not on the bal­lot but launched an eleventh-hour re­elec­tion bid.

Or­di­nance 2016-04 gives the elec­tions board a spe­cific time­line in the event that a write-in can­di­date gar­ners the ma­jor­ity of votes for mayor or town com­mis­sioner.

Denise Breder, town ad­min­is­tra­tor, said within two cal­en­dar days of the re­sults, if a write-in is the win­ner, he or she must sub­mit the fi­nan­cial dis­clo­sure form. No­tice would likely be hand-de­liv­ered, Breder said.

“If the per­son does not file the state­ment within the two day pe­riod, the Ethics Com­mis­sion is to pro­vide no­tice of the fail­ure ... within another two days, or within four days from the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of the re­sults,” Breder said via email.

Once the dis­clo­sure form is in-hand, the ethics board then has two days to ver­ify that in­for­ma­tion.

A to­tal of six days can pass be­fore win­ner is of­fi­cial.

How­ever, that also cuts into the time the town has to pre­pare for any swear­ing-in cer­e­mony.

“For Per­ryville, the char­ter reads that swear­ing-in must oc­cur on or be­fore the sec­ond Mon­day fol­low­ing elec­tion,” Breder said.

John Meck urged the board in Au­gust to keep the write-in op­tion avail­able, call­ing it a right.

“Keep as much lib­erty and free­dom open as pos­si­ble even if it takes a lit­tle leg­work to not con­flict with state or federal law,” he said at that town meet­ing eight months ago.

With the re­vised or­di­nance be­fore the board, Meck asked the board Tues­day night what hap­pens if the can­di­date re­fuses to sub­mit the forms, or is dis­qual­i­fied be­cause of the in­for­ma­tion pro­vided.

Since two com­mis­sioner seats are filled at each elec­tion, and the top two vote-get­ters are the de­clared win­ners, Meck won­dered how the dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion could af­fect out­come.

“If you still had two other can­di­dates, the sec­ond-most vote gath­erer would take the other of­fice,” Meck said. “Would can­di­date three get the other seat?”

Breder said in the event that the top can­di­date were to be dis­qual­i­fied, the terms of the char­ter re­quire the mayor to bring a name to the com­mis­sion­ers to fill the va­cant seat.

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