The lo­cal elec­tion date so­lu­tion

Cecil Whig - - OPINION -

For years, Elkton vot­ers have had to worry about cut­ting their Me­mo­rial Day va­ca­tions short in or­der to cast their bal­lots in the mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion.

It’s an is­sue that the county seat has had to grap­ple with as it fights fluc­tu­at­ing turnout, but one that lo­cal of­fi­cials fi­nally seem poised to fix. Dur­ing the town work­shop Wed­nes­day, the com­mis­sion­ers dis­cussed chang­ing the date of the elec­tion to the sec­ond, rather than fourth, Tues­day in May, there­fore avoid­ing the is­sue of va­ca­tion­ing or dis­tracted vot­ers.

The idea is one that we ap­plaud, but also one that we ques­tion as to why it hasn’t gone a step far­ther.

Why not con­sol­i­date the county’s mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion dates al­to­gether?

It’s per­haps a dras­tic sug­ges­tion, but one that seem­ingly has a lot of merit. Sure, each of Ce­cil County’s eight towns has se­lected its own elec­tion date as part of its his­tory. It holds sig­nif­i­cance to some and none to oth­ers. But Elkton’s ex­am­ple high­lights that elec­tion dates are not some im­mutable des­ig­na­tion.

Do you know how many dif­fer­ent mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion days there are in Ce­cil County? Seven. Only Port De­posit and Per­ryville share the same elec­tion day — the sec­ond Tues­day in May. North East is the ear­li­est — the sec­ond Mon­day in Fe­bru­ary — while Ris­ing Sun is the lat­est — the sec­ond Mon­day in June. The county’s south­ern­most towns, Ce­cil­ton and Ch­e­sa­peake City, share first Mon­day elec­tion days, al­beit a month apart in May and June, re­spec­tively. Charlestown is the lone March date — the first Tues­day. Con­fused yet? We were. Imag­ine be­ing a lo­cal res­i­dent who is also try­ing to keep track of county, state and na­tional races in both pri­mary and gen­eral elec­tions. Pri­maries move ev­ery two years de­pend­ing on whether it’s a pres­i­den­tial or gu­ber­na­to­rial cy­cle — the fourth Tues­day in April or last Tues­day in June, re­spec­tively.

Is it any won­der that the only elec­tion day the av­er­age voter can rat­tle off is the Tues­day af­ter the first Mon­day in Novem­ber?

Elkton com­mis­sion­ers re­marked this week that they had dif­fi­culty no­ti­fy­ing vot­ers of their mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion due to the high-pro­file county, state and na­tional pri­mary that took place just weeks be­fore. Many res­i­dents said they be­lieved the elec­tion was over and were con­fused as to why can­di­dates were still knock­ing on their doors. Over­shad­owed by their big­ger peers, the re­sult of the Elkton elec­tion may have been im­pacted by its date.

So we won­der, what if all eight Ce­cil County town may­ors, coun­cils and boards of com­mis­sion­ers con­vened to se­lect one day for all mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions? Imag­ine be­ing able to tell the tens of thou­sands of mu­nic­i­pal res­i­dents to head to town hall polls on a par­tic­u­lar day, re­gard­less of which town they lived in. Surely it would in­crease turnout at elec­tions, wouldn’t it?

Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Con­fer­ence of State Leg­is­la­tures, it would. A 2008 na­tion­wide sur­vey found that 70 per­cent of re­spon­dents fa­vored com­bin­ing small races on larger elec­tion days. Cur­rently, 11 states — Ge­or­gia, Idaho, In­di­ana, Iowa, Kansas, Mon­tana, North Carolina, Ohio, Penn­syl­va­nia, Utah and Wash­ing­ton — hold their mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions in Novem­ber of odd-num­bered years, while five states — Ar­kan­sas, Ken­tucky, Ne­braska, Ore­gon and Rhode Is­land — hold their mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions in Novem­ber of even years, in con­junc­tion with big gen­eral elec­tions.

We don’t nec­es­sar­ily pro­pose lump­ing may­oral in with pres­i­den­tial races, but we think con­sol­i­dat­ing is an ex­cit­ing idea.

What do you think Ce­cil County?

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