Grass­roots com­mit­tee to pro­mote bal­lot ques­tion

Record Observer - - News - By JACK SHAUM jshaum@kibay­times.com

A grass­roots move­ment has been formed to urge Queen Anne’s County res­i­dents to vote for a non-bind­ing straw poll in the Novem­ber elec­tion on whether the method of elect­ing county com­mis­sion­ers should be changed.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion is called Cit­i­zens for Equal Rep­re­sen­ta­tion: A Bi­par­ti­san Grass­roots Ef­fort to Bring District Elec­tions to QAC. “Vote Yes for District Elec­tions,” its new flier states.

The straw poll, which was ap­proved by this year’s Gen­eral As­sem­bly, asks for vot­ers’ opin­ions on whether com­mis­sion­ers should be elected by district. For ex­am­ple, back­ers say, a com­mis­sioner would have to live in District 1 and be voted on only by res­i­dents of District 1.

Cur­rently, one com­mis­sioner is elected at large and four oth­ers liv­ing in spe­cific dis­tricts are elected by vot­ers coun­ty­wide.

Char­lie Rhodes , who is also a Church Hill town com­mis­sioner, is chair­man of the com­mit­tee and re­cently filed the re­quired pa­pers with the Mary­land State Board of Elec­tions. Rhodes, a Demo­crat, em­pha­sized the bi­par­ti­san na­ture of the com­mit­tee, and said his brother Kenny Rhodes, who is a Repub­li­can from Sudlersville, is its trea­surer.

“We’re set up to move for­ward and ac­cept money or do­na­tions in kind ... we just have to re­port it,” Char­lie Rhodes said. “When you start try­ing to in­flu­ence an elec­tion is­sue, you’re bet­ter off form­ing this [type of] com­mit­tee. It wasn’t hard to do and we did it.”

He said the com­mit­tee — which he de­scribed es­sen­tially as a po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee — was formed to use so­cial and print media, pos­si­bly yard signs, and other forms of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, to spread the word that it feels elec­tion by district is best for the county.

“You and your com­mu­nity know the needs of your district bet­ter than any­one else in the county. So why would you let the rest of the county choose your rep­re­sen­ta­tive?” the com­mit­tee’s flier asks. The ex­act lan­guage that will be used in the straw poll ques­tion in Novem­ber is part of the flier.

Rhodes said that mem­bers of the Queen Anne’s County Coun­cil of Gov­ern­ments unan­i­mously fa­vor elec­tions by district and that those mem­bers are both Democrats and Repub­li­cans. The COG be­gan dis­cus­sions on this is­sue more than a year ago and pushed for the leg­is­la­tion that au­tho­rizes the straw vote.

“The COG, as a group, can’t take an of­fi­cial po­si­tion” by law, Rhodes said, ad­ding that he wants to make it clear that they are act­ing as pri­vate cit­i­zens and not as rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the COG.

“I see it ba­si­cally as an evo­lu­tion of what we started back in 2002 ... [when] the com­mis­sion­ers formed the cur­rent sys­tem we have now,” Rhodes said. At that time, when five com­mis­sion­ers were elected for the first time, elec­tion by district was dis­cussed but de­cided against.

Rhodes said any­one seek­ing more in­for­ma­tion on the com­mit­tee or do­nat­ing to it should con­tact him at 443604-2209.

PHOTO BY DOUG BISHOP

Char­lie Rhodes of Church Hill, left, and Ge­orge “Smokey” Sigler of Cen­tre­ville, spoke at the Queen Anne’s County Farm Bureau pic­nic ear­lier this year in fa­vor of a straw poll vote on whether the method of elect­ing county com­mis­sion­ers should be changed.

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