TAKOMA PARK— The City mayor and Council changed the voting rules in the city charter May 10, bringing a slew of changes to the election process.
“It passed, we just changed our elections…it was harder than giving birth,” said Mayor Kate Stewart.
With the adoption of the charter amendment, the date of City elections will change from odd-numbered years to even-numbered years, synchronizing it with State and County elections.
It will also change the date of the nominating meeting, the day which the mayor and Council take office, and will extend the time for certification of election results. The length of the 2017 term will change, too.
The mayor and Council passed an amendment from Council member Rizzy Qureshi (Ward 3) to change the 2017 term from one year to three, as well as the entire charter amendment.
Council members have said they believe this change has the potential to increase voter turnout.
Qureshi brought up his proposed amendment, to mixed reactions from some of his colleagues.
Council member Peter Kovar (Ward 1) said he did not support Qureshi’s proposal.
“The purpose behind the underlying change, what we’re trying to do is, looking at the fact that we have higher turnout in even years, whether they’re presidential, state or congressional, is to encourage higher turnout for our local elections,” said Kovar.
Kovar also said he had an issue with Qureshi’s proposal because he believed it would extend his term.
Council member Tim Male (Ward 2) remarked that the first time that Council members would want to try the new election processes should not be the next presidential election.
“That’s the trade-off for me, making it easy for thousands of people to participate in the elections in 2018 versus the candidates,” Male said.
Male also mentioned that he believes there will be various uncontested races in 2017 and 2018, similar to past races.
Council member Fred Schultz (Ward 6) said he agreed with Qureshi’s proposed change, citing his learning curve with the position.
“I know it took me at least two years to feel comfortable. I think it would be a disservice to any new person on the Council regardless of their background to limit the first term to one year,” said Schultz.