Grassroots committee to promote ballot question
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.
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.