Published on: Thursday, October 1, 2015 Takoma Park Newsletter

City Council considers advisory question for November ballot

According to City Clerk Jessie Carpenter, it’s been a decade since an advisory question appeared on the Takoma Park election ballot. That could change. At its Sept. 28 meeting, the Council is expected to vote to approve placing Councilmember Tim Male’s advisory question on the ballot for the Nov. 3 election.

Male has proposed placing an advisory question on the ballot to change City elections to coincide with the presidential and Maryland gubernatorial elections. He has advocated for this change as a means to increase voter turnout and broaden the racial and ethnic diversity of voters. “There is good evidence of higher turnout and lower costs,” Male said. In addition, “cities that have synced up their local elections with state and federal elections have found that it had a big influence on the demographics of who votes,” he continued, “and it’s easier for everybody.”

“There’s been a movement during the past six years to encourage people to vote,” observed City Manager Suzanne L. Ludlow. “We have early voting, and you don’t have to have a reason to vote absentee.”

“We are trying to make it as easy as possible,” Carpenter said of the many options local residents have for voting in city elections.

While these measures were designed to increase voter turnout, some in Takoma Park remember a time when voting in the City was very much a community affair. “People liked the positive feeling of a small community coming together in one place on Election Day,” Ludlow said.

She acknowledges that this new proposal to combine city elections with federal and state elections moves even further away from the community feel of the electoral process: “People would be dispersed in multiple places, and candidates would have to cover multiple polling places.”

However, changing the timeline for City elections is far from a done deal. If the advisory question does appear on the ballot, it will serve as means for merely gauging how local residents feel about the proposed change. “It’s an advisory question only,” Carpenter emphasized. “The Council would make the final decision to change the charter.”

Consideration of the question should make for healthy debate in the community and will likely be a topic of discussion at the upcoming Election Forum on Oct. 21.

This article appeared in the October 2015 edition of the Takoma Park Newsletter. The Takoma Park Newsletter is available for download here.