Charter Government Forces Regroup, Start Drive Anew

Leader Pooh-poohs Invalidation Of Petition Signatures

July 31, 1991|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff writer

A state ruling invalidating some of the 2,000 signatures collected by a committee trying to change the way Carroll governs itself did notreally have an impact on the nearly 23-year push for charter government, backers of the proposal say.

The ruling, issued earlier this month by the Maryland State Board of Elections, said that by failing to have voters indicate their birth date and the date on which they signed the petition, the Committee for Charter Government would have to begin again.

But while the state may be saying that the committee has to startfrom scratch, the committee itself decided in May to delay putting the question in front of Carroll voters until at least November 1993.

"We've all heard of this Board of Elections memo, but we haven't seen it," said Gregory Pecoraro, a committee member and chairman of the Carroll County Democratic Central Committee.

"None of this is any great surprise to us. While we're sorry we ran into a small problem, we're not at all disappointed."

Even if the state board hadn't invalidated some of the signatures -- the exact number of disqualifiedsignatures was not clear yesterday -- the committee would have had to start a new petition drive anyway.

Petition signatures are validfor only six months; since this most recent charter government drivebegan in October, many of the signatures would have been invalidatedanyway.

When the committee decided in May to put the question of charter government on the ballot in 1993 instead of 1992, it did so not because of a lack of signatures -- the petition must have signatures from at least 5 percent of the county's 54,150 registered voters -- but because of the issue-crowded ballot expected next November.

"The 1992 election is going to be so controversial," said Charles O. Fisher Sr., a Westminster attorney who has been pushing for charter government since the mid-1960s.

"Our feeling is that in that election, you'll have the abortion referendum (and) the presidential election. It could take interest away from the charter government question."

Once the Committee for Charter Government collects the roughly 2,700 signatures it needs, it will forward the petition to Carroll's county commissioners, who must appoint a five-member committee to write a charter.

That charter would be put in front of the voters in aspecial election in 1993 if the committee is able to collect enough signatures by this October, Fisher said.

If a charter is approved by voters -- a charter vote in 1968 was defeated by a 2-to-1 margin, and a modified form of home rule was shot down 3-to-1 in 1984 -- it would be the first change in Carroll's form of government since the county was founded in 1837.

The committee began its petition drive anew last week, hitting county malls and homes.

To avoid any further delay in collecting enough valid signatures, the county committee has decided to use state-provided petition forms.

Charter government -- the form of government used in every other county in the Baltimore metropolitan area -- would bring an elected county council and an elected or appointed county executive.

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