City makes case for changing primary

Switching to even years could save $500,000

March 01, 2000|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

With no opposition and few questions during its first hearing, legislation that would change the year of Baltimore's mayoral primary election appears to have won a warm reception in Annapolis.

House Bill 782, heard yesterday in the Commerce and Government Matters Committee, would change the city's primary election to coincide with the presidential vote.

Baltimore voters passed a referendum in November to move the general election from odd-number years to the same even-number years that presidential races are held. The General Assembly has the authority to decide when Maryland jurisdictions hold their primaries.

The next city mayoral general election is set for November 2004. If the General Assembly does not move the mayoral primary, that election will be held September 2003.

Moving the city election to coincide with the presidential race is expected to save the city at least $500,000 and as much as $2 million. The change reduces the number of elections the city must hold, saving election materials and personnel.

"The associated costs that go along with an election go well beyond [$500,000]," City Councilman Robert W. Curran, who has pushed for the change the past several years, told the committee yesterday.

The change would mean that the city would have three elections during presidential election years -- a presidential primary in March, a mayoral primary in September and a general election in November.

"Can you handle that?" asked Del. John F. Wood Jr., a St. Mary's County Democrat and chairman of the committee.

"Yes, we can handle it," said Councilwoman Catherine Pugh. "We're trying to save the city money."

The committee asked council members why they gave themselves an $11,000 raise if they were trying to save money.

Curran said he abstained from voting on the raise, and Pugh and Councilman Kenneth N. Harris said they were not on the council when the salary increases were passed.

Del. Salima S. Marriott, chairwoman of the city's House delegation and the bill's sponsor, said the city delegates support the election change and asked for the committee's support.

The committee is expected to decide after city delegates vote on the measure, which could come as early as this week.

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