Special Elections Proposed To Fill Vacancies

The Council Discussed That Tuesday night.


Frederick, Md (KM) Special elections could be held in the future to fill vacancies on the Frederick County Council, the County Executive and the Board of Education. A plan to that affect was presented Tuesday night by Councilman Steve McKay. “When we have a vacancy in one of these major elected offices, we should try to fill that vacancy by vote, by the voters,” McKay says.

Currently, when a vacancy appears on the County Executive’s job, the Council will vote on a nominee submitted by a party central committee or the Chief Administrative Officer will take over. When a vacancy occurs on the County Council, a replacement is chosen by the Council, with the possibility of an appointment by the County Executive. The County Executive appoints a candidate  to fill a vacancy on the Board of Ed which is confirmed by the Council.

Under McKay’s proposal, a special election  takes place during the first 12-months of a term in office, which allows candidates to register for their party;s primary election. An interim appointment will be made to fill the post until the election.

Also, any vacancy taking place after the first 12-months of a term would be filled by a longer term appointment. That person would fill the position until the remainder of the  unexpired term.

McKay says these elections would take place at the same time as the presidential elections. He says a stand alone  special election would cost between $250,000 to $300,000.

Election Director Stuart Harvey says there’s also another problem with stand alone special elections. “If you had a stand alone special election, I would have a real problem getting the schools,” he says. “The schools will not be mandated to close for a special election.”

McKay says the state does allow special elections for county executives and county councils. He says locally, there would need to be charter amendments to effect this change, and that would have to be placed before the voters in a referendum.

But special elections to fill Board of Education vacancies would need a change in state law.

The Council expressed support for the changes. “I completely agree with putting it in the hands of the voters within reason, ” Councilwoman Jessica Fitzwater told Councilman McKay. “And I think your proposal to be along with the presidential election makes sense, and not be its own special election. I can see that being costly but also being challenging to get enough voter turnout.”

Councilman McKay says he will present this idea to the Charter Review Commission. He also told the Council he will present some draft language of this proposal at a future date.


By Kevin McManus