Charter government suffers second, but narrower defeat Absentee voters reflect special election results

May 05, 1998|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

Like their counterparts in Saturday's special election, absentee voters rejected a proposed change in the form of Carroll's government, but by a narrower margin.

Absentees cast 576 votes against a charter government headed by a county executive and five-member county council, and 462 votes for it. They also voted nearly 2-to-1 against expanding the board of commissioners from three to five members. The tally was 325 votes for, and 636 votes against expansion.

Fifty-one absentee ballots are outstanding. Some of those were received in the mail yesterday and will not be counted until May 15, when the election board opens ballots received from overseas.

The final tally shows that only six of the county's 43 precincts -- all in the Eldersburg-Sykesville area -- voted for charter. It was there that the call for charter government was first championed, mostly by slow-growth activists who felt a county executive and county council would be more responsive to their concerns.

But the attempt to blame South Carroll's rapid commercial and industrial growth on the commissioner form of government never caught on elsewhere. Overall, charter failed 11,683 to 7,689.

Charter supporters sought to broaden their base by having Hampstead Mayor Christopher M. Nevin and New Windsor Mayor Jack Gullo Jr. write and promote the proposed charter, but that didn't work either. All four Hampstead precincts voted against it, as did both New Windsor precincts.

The other issue -- the question of whether to expand the board of commissioners from three to five -- was proposed by the legislative delegation.

The measure carried four precincts -- three in Eldersburg, one in Mount Airy, where some residents sought better representation in Westminster, the county seat. The five-commissioner proposal failed 11,151 to 6,860.

The opening of the absentee ballots yesterday had an air of solemnity. The five teams of two people each, a Democrat and rTC Republican, knew the ballots would not change the election. But they approached their task like jurors, knowing they might have to invalidate a ballot.

Each team examined more than 200 ballot envelopes, checking to make sure pre-election instructions were followed to the letter, that signatures matched, and that envelopes met the postmark deadline.

Questionable ballots were turned over to the three-member election board and the board's attorney for examination.

Three of the 1,049 ballots considered by the board yesterday were rejected. One was rejected because the voter had died before the election, on the day the ballot was filled out. Two others were rejected because they had been stuffed into the same envelope.

In some instances, absentee voters had filled out their ballots with a ball-point pen, which caused the voting-machine counter to reject them. After determining that the voters' intentions were clear, board members filled out duplicate ballots and fed them into the counter, making the votes official.

Pub Date: 5/05/98

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