Frederick opens absentee balloting to all residents -- Gazette.Net


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Frederick didn’t have the time or money to hold early voting in this year’s election, but a modification to the city code will allow registered residents to obtain an absentee ballot as a de facto way to vote anytime.

“This was looked at as a way of providing early voting, and it moves in some small way toward maximum ballot access,” said Alderman Michael O’Connor (D). “My hope would be at some point down the line we could offer early voting, but right now this is a good start.”

The change, approved unanimously by the five-member Frederick Board of Aldermen at a public hearing on April 18, allows any resident who is a registered voter to obtain a ballot except where prohibited by federal law.

In addition, residents 18 and older who are not a candidate on the ballot can obtain absentee ballots for other residents who are unable to obtain them from the city elections board.

Residents obtaining an absentee ballot would have to sign an affidavit that it was being taken to a registered voter. The ballot would then be marked in their presence and sealed.

Alderman Karen Young (D) said it was important to have that provision to allow ballots to be obtained for those who need access.

“It’s probably more likely that if you’re ill or disabled that you’ll ask a family member or trusted friend [to pick up a ballot],” she said.

The city’s previous absentee ballot law allows residents to vote absentee if they are not present or prevented by disability or confinement from voting on the day of the election, City Attorney Saundra Nickols said at the meeting.

Anne Leffler, president of the Frederick Board of Supervisors of Elections, told the aldermen at a public hearing March 21 that the cost and time needed to allow early voting would be too much for the city to overcome.

Leffler told the aldermen that the William R. Talley Recreation Center, one of the city’s polling places suggested for early voting, had logistical issues, such as other events being held in the space and a lack of parking.

She also said it would be difficult to get election judges for the extra days early voting would require.

Mayor vetoes position

In other action at the meeting, Mayor Randy McClement (R) used his veto power for the first time to block an attempt by the board to create a new city government position.

The board wanted a legislative assistant to serve both the aldermen and the city budget director, neither of whom currently have help in conducting research and other duties.

The aldermen previously had a legislative assistant, but McClement eliminated the position in March 2010, and the office manager of the city legal department took over those duties.

But the office manager recently resigned, leaving the aldermen without legislative help, according to city documents.

After a lengthy discussion, the proposal to create the position passed 3-2, with Aldermen Shelley Aloi (R), Carol Krimm (D) and Young in favor.

But McClement immediately asked the city attorney about using his veto power, and then invoked it. He said he was concerned about adding the position to the discussion late in the city’s budget process.

“I will state emphatically one more time — I am not trying to say we do not need these two positions,” McClement said, referring to whether both the aldermen and city budget director should get the shared assistant. “I believe we need to make sure we’re doing it right and getting the opportunity for all parties involved to do it right.”

But Aloi fired back, condemning McClement’s veto.

“This is indicative of this administration,” she said. “This mayor does not communicate with the aldermen. This mayor does not collaborate with the aldermen. This mayor does not support the aldermen. Mayor, I’m sorry to say that in this forum, but this veto makes that very loud and clear.”

tlaino@gazette.net