Annapolis' inaccessible ballot Anne Arundel County: Judge had little choice, but city charter should be changed.

September 02, 1997

CIRCUIT COURT JUDGE Lawrence H. Rushworth made the only decision the law allowed when he disqualified three Annapolis aldermanic candidates from the Sept. 16 ballot.

Although the candidates met the residency requirements, they had not been registered voters long enough in the wards they sought to represent. In light of Judge Rushworth's decision, the council should re-examine this provision of the city charter.

Voters -- rather than mandates in the city charter -- should determine suitability for public office. Certainly, candidates should still be required to reside in the wards they represent.

Living in one ward and representing another would be bad public policy and would not serve the interests of Annapolis residents.

However, it is difficult to discern what purpose is served by requiring a candidate to have been a registered voter in the ward for six months prior to the election. In Annapolis, a voter can register to vote up until a week before the general election. Why should candidates have to be registered to vote in ward a half-year prior to the election?

The registration requirement, when it was added to the charter, may have served a means of measuring interest in city affairs.

It would be much better to allow voters, after listening to the candidates and examining their positions, to determine whether the candidates are sufficiently conversant in local issues to occupy elective office in Annapolis.

Or put another way, does everyone who is registered to vote consider themselves automatically well-versed in local affairs?

If the council decides that candidates should be registered voters for at least six months prior to the election, it might consider requiring that candidates be registered voters anywhere in the city. Because Annapolis is small, most people are as familiar with the issues in Ward 1 as they are with those in Ward 5.

The city needs the best possible people in public office, so why set an artificially difficult standard to get on the ballot?

The new council should make revising the charter's candidacy requirements a priority.

Perhaps this will be the last election in which willing residents were denied the opportunity to present themselves to the voters.

Pub Date: 9/02/97

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