By-district voting draws mixed opinions, debate
SUDLERSVILLE — Is it time to change the way county commissioners are elected?
That was the central issue at an informational meeting held by the Queen Anne’s County League of Women Voters on Tuesday, Oct. 4, at the Sudlersville Senior Center. About 50 people attended the meeting. Included in that were 38 members of the public, and the rest were organizers, the panelists, a TV crew and the press.
The by-district voting issue will appear as a nonbinding question on the next election’s ballot, asking if four county commissioners should be elected only by the voters of the district in which the candidate resides. The fifth commissioner will remain elected at large.
Currently, people in the county can vote for all five commissioners. If enacted, the voter would have two county commissioner representatives, one from the district in which the voter lives and the at-large commissioner.
The Oct. 4 meeting featured panelists giving opening remarks and answering questions from the public.
The panelists in favor of by district voting were County Commissioner Jim Moran and Church Hill Commissioner Charlie Rhodes. Against the by-district voting panelists were County Commissioner Steve Wilson and Jack Broderick, president of the Kent Island Heritage Society.
Moran said he supports the commissioners he sits with but thinks voting by district can give the voters fair and balanced representation. He said that if candidates aren’t required to win their district, then why have districts.
On the other hand, Wilson said by-district voting would translate into “pork barrel” style of government with candidates only responsible for their district. “We need to represent the county as a whole,” he said.
Rhodes argued in favor of by-district voting because, according to him, it would provide continuity because it’s less likely all county commissioners will be voted out at once.
Broderick likes the current method of voters electing all the county commissioners. “I’m not willing to give up my ability to hold all the county commissioners accountable,” he said
Wilson argued that by district voting doesn’t add to voters’ representation at the county commission. He also noted that, if the change is enacted, voters will only have two representatives on the five-member county commission, which he calls “taxation without representation.”
But Moran said the Maryland General Assembly has representatives that voters in Queen Anne’s County didn’t vote for. Candidates
voters choose in a district are triumphed by voters in other districts, he said.
When asked a question from the moderator, Rhodes said he didn’t see any negative impact with by-district voting. It’s easier, he argued, for candidates to run in just their district. “I see it as a positive for Queen Anne’s County,” he said.
Later on in the meeting, he said, “I believe in fact it would reduce the turnover in county commissioners.”
The county’s League of Women Voters will hold another public forum on the straw poll vote at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 13, at the Kent Island Library at 200 Library Circle (off Route 18) in Stevensville. It will feature the same panelists.
The question on the upcoming election ballot will read: “Do you favor changing the method of selection of four of the five members of the Queen Anne’s County Board of County Commissioners from the current method of being elected at large by the voters of Queen Anne’s County, with one member residing in each of the four election districts, to a new method where each of the four members is elected by
only the voters of the district in which the member resides and the fifth member is elected at large and may reside in any district of the County?”
The results of the election vote are not binding, and it will fall to the current County Commissioners to decide whether to proceed with any change.
According to the League of Women Voters, these forums are purely informational and electioneering is not allowed to take place in the building. Campaign type literature and paraphernalia are not allowed in the building before and during the forums. Signs outside and distribution of campaign materials outside after the forum are permitted.
The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and works to increase understanding of major public policy issues. Women and men age 16 and older are invited to join the League.
The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 8, but early voting is from Thursday, Oct. 27, through Thursday, Nov. 3.
Panelists debated the by-district voting straw poll at a meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 4, at the Sudlersville Senior Center. From left: County Commissioner Jim Moran, Church Hill Commissioner Charlie Rhodes, County Commissioner Steve Wilson, and Jack Broderick, president of the Kent Island Heritage Society.
Steve Meehan of Kingstown asks a question about diversity on the Queen Anne’s County Board of Commissioners during an informational meeting about by-district voting on Tuesday, Oct. 4.