Howard voters' resounding 'no' leaves some observers baffled

November 07, 1996|By Dan Morse | Dan Morse,SUN STAFF

The proposal seemed innocuous enough. In Howard County, officials hoped to correct what was little more than a typographical error in their county constitution.

So they asked Howard voters on Election Day for permission to change "Appeal Boards" to "Board of Appeals."

"No!" county voters screamed in an 84 percent landslide -- their most decisive rejection of the day and one illustrating the broader electorate's distrust for government and the confusion over all those questions on the backs of Maryland ballots. Throughout the state, voters often shoot in the dark on these issues, political scientists said yesterday. One political scientist, the University of Maryland's Vince Marando, himself a Columbia resident, said even he didn't study the proposed changes.

"If I didn't do this," he said. "I can guarantee you that 95 percent of the people or higher didn't do it."

So what happened in Howard? Why, on this particular issue -- involving the appeals board -- did voters stand up in unified defiance as if the county was coming after their two-car garages?

No one seemed to know.

"That one flabbergasted me," said Darrel E. Drown, the Republican chairman of the County Council. "You couldn't get 80 percent of the people to agree that [Election Day] was Tuesday. But they certainly agreed that this was a bad thing."

But the appeals board proposal was not so much a bad thing as an exceedingly minor thing.

There was plenty of blame to go around, according to voters, elected officials and political scientists interviewed yesterday: Voters are too busy to study such trivial matters. Howard politicians must have been up to something because it sounded so simple. Local newspapers hadn't provided full details about all 13 proposed changes to the county constitution, officially known as its charter. This stuff is kind of boring.

Pub Date: 11/07/96

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.