The local election date solution
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?