An effort to make it easier for Republican and independent candidates to win seats on Baltimore's City Council took a major step forward yesterday as the way was cleared for a November ballot question calling for single-member council districts.
Currently, three council members are elected from each of the city's six districts. The proposed change would create 18 single-member districts, making it much easier for less well-known and minority party candidates to win.
Earlier this month, the city's finance director, William R. Brown Jr., had rejected a 15,159-signature petition -- collected by an organization called Baltimoreans for Fair Representation, which is affiliated with the Republican Party -- to put the single-member district on the ballot.
Mr. Brown said then that he could not certify the petition because the group had not supplied financial disclosure information detailing the $1,410 collected to support the petition drive, as required by state law.
But yesterday he wrote to the city Board of Supervisors of Elections to say that City Hall was withdrawing its objections. "It appears that the sponsor of the petitions did not receive proper and adequate notice of the requirements for filing" a financial disclosure statement, he wrote.
The petition will now go to the board, which must determine whether it contains the signatures of at least 10,000 registered voters. The 10,000 signatures represent 3 percent of the city's registered voters, required by state law before a referendum question may be on the ballot, according to Barbara E. Jackson, chief of the city elections board.
She said it could take a week or more to verify the signatures.
If the petition is declared valid, the referendum question will appear on the ballot as "Question L."
David R. Blumberg, head of the Republican Party in Baltimore, said he believed the petition would be approved easily.
"It gives more people who don't have the backing of political machines the chance of being competitive," said Mr. Blumberg, whose Republican constituency is outnumbered by Democrats in voter registration by 9-1.