FREDERICK -- Frederick County voters rejected overwhelmingly yesterday a proposed home rule charter that would have abolished the existing commission form of government and replaced it with an executive-county council system.
With 44 percent of returns tallied last night, voters were coming down against the charter by a 3-to-1 margin, with 76 percent opposing the change and 24 percent supporting it.
Turnout was close to 30 percent in city precincts, election officials said, slightly higher than the anticipated 20 percent to 25 percent of the county's 63,000 registered voters.
A 12-member charter advisory board, after a series of public hearings over the past year, drew up the proposed home rule charter, which would have allowed voters to elect a council representative from their home district.
Under the existing commissioner system, the top five vote-getters countywide are elected to office.
The charter, had it been approved, would have become law on June 1, 1994.
Past efforts to change the county's system of government, such as a 1984 petition drive, have failed.
Charter supporters had felt that the county's fast-paced growth over the last 10 years would cause voters to see the need for a full-time elected administrator of county government. The elected county executive would run the day-to-day operations of county government, while the five-member county council would the legislative body. No council member would have served for more than three four-year terms, and the executive could serve only two consecutive four-year terms.
Supporters had said the home rule charter would give residents more control over legislation for the county. Instead of the system now in place, where many county laws must be approved by the General Assembly, county officials would have enacted those measures.
Opponents argued that the change would reduce the work elected officials could do for constituents, since the county employees would be working for the administrative branch.