ROCKVILLE—The Montgomery County Public Schools board of education unanimously voted during its meeting Tuesday to oppose the bill that would require a special election if a board of education member vacancy appeared within a term, citing expenses.
Delegates David Moon (D-20), Kumar Barve (D-17) and Alfred Carr (D-18) are among those sponsoring the bill, according to a memo by MCPS legislative aide Patricia Swanson.
Under the bill, board of education candidates seeking a position that became vacant at least one year before the end of a term would not be appointed but rather elected by voters, said Rebecca Smondrowski (D-2), board of education member.
“Right now, if someone were to resign in the middle of a term the Board (of Education) appoints someone to fill the seat for the rest of the term and then they run like usual,” said Smondrowski. “The bill that’s being submitted would change that from an appointment to a special election.”
The elections are countywide and nonpartisan, Smondrowski said.
The Montgomery County board of elections would have to hold a special election to fill the vacancy.
“In the event of a vacancy for an elected member on the County Board (of Education), if the vacancy date is at least 365 days before the end of the elected members’ term, a special election shall be conducted if the vacancy on the County board for the remainder of that term and until a successor is elected and qualifies,” according to a draft of the bill dated Aug. 5, 2015.
According to the bill, if the vacancy is within a specific district, the replacement would need to live in that district.
Board of education member Philip Kauffman (D-at large) said he did not see a need for a change to be made to the bill.
“I would just say if there was a problem with our current process this is something to fix I could see, but I don’t think that we have examples of where we’ve had problems,” said Kauffman.
Smondrowski agreed with Kauffman.
“We have a system in place that works,” said Smondrowski. “There is no reason to change it.”
Board member Pat O’Neill (D-3) said she thought the current process of appointing members in that situation rather than holding an election worked best.
“We have two board members that have originally been appointed,” said O’Neill, later adding, “We’ve done a pretty good job with our appointed members.”
Board of education President Michael Durso (D-at large), Vice President Judith Docca (D-at large) and board member Christopher Barclay (D-4) were appointed to the board, said Smondrowski.
O’Neill said County Council member Nancy Navarro (D-4) was originally appointed to the board of education as well before formally running.
Swanson advised the board of education not to take a position on the bill.
Board member Jill Ortman-Fouse (D-At Large) asked if the board should take a position on something involving voting.
Barclay (D-4) said the board’s position would not directly affect people’s voting selections, which would be problematic.
Smondrowski said holding special elections would cost the county and the candidates.
“It would be very expensive both for the county and for the candidates,” said Smondrowski.
Barclay agreed cost was an issue.
“This senator comes with a piece of legislation that’s going to cost every district money but has no revenue stream to pay for it,” said Barclay.
According to the bill, voters would decide whether to include it on the ballot in the general election in November. The bill would only affect Montgomery County.
According to the draft, the bill would give the County the ability to expand voter registration to noncitizens, 16-year-olds and criminals who have served their sentences.
“Except where it would be inappropriate, or as otherwise provided in this article, the electoral process for primary elections, general elections, and special elections shall be uniform,” according to the draft.