Recall rules for voters proposed Measure before aldermen tonight outlines procedure

Removing elected officials

Legislation called the next-best option to term limitation

March 10, 1997|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

Annapolis officials are trying to make it easier for voters to give them the boot.

In January, the city council adopted charter amendments that put much of their power in the hands of unelected officials. Another amendment gave voters the right to recall elected officials through special elections. A bill to be presented to the council tonight outlines the procedure.

"While we had given voters that right in our city charter, there was no mechanism in place to carry it out," said Alderman Carl O. Snowden, a Ward 5 Democrat who sponsored the legislation. "This bill creates that mechanism and was drafted to make it easy for citizens to vote out an elected official who wasn't responding to their needs.

"It's really the second-best thing to a term limitation," said Snowden, who expects to run for mayor this year. "It has a profound impact on the city because it's basically a major form of checks and balances."

Under the legislation, signatures of 10 percent of the people qualified to vote in the city's previous general election are needed to initiate the removal of the mayor from office by presenting a recall petition to the city council.

For an alderman, 10 percent of people qualified to vote in that alderman's ward may initiate the removal process by presenting a petition to the council.

The council must verify that the signatures are those of qualified voters and set a date for a special election, Snowden said.

The right to recall elected officials is relatively rare among Maryland municipal governments, said James P. Peck, associate director of research at the Maryland Municipal League. Of the 156 municipalities -- not including Baltimore -- only 17 others have that power, he said.

"Clearly, the power to recall is a significant addition for [the city]," Peck said. "In the past, the only alternative was to wait until the next election to not vote for that person."

Annapolis adopted the provision shortly after recommendations to improve the way city government operates were made in September by the Annapolis Governmental Structure and Charter Revision Commission -- better known as the Duden commission for its chairman, Richard Duden.

"It certainly puts more power into the voters' hands, where it should be in a democracy," said Alderman Dean L. Johnson, a Ward 2 Independent and chairman of the city rules committee that will review the legislation before it comes before the council for a vote. "Before, voters could scream and yell, but that was all.

"This bill creates a procedure for them to carry out their feelings of dissatisfaction for an elected official," said Johnson, who also plans to run for mayor. "It makes us accountable to our voters."

Pub Date: 3/10/97

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