SUITLAND – Voters have tough decisions to make when they go to the polls in November, and the Democratic Central Committee (DCC) faced an equally arduous decision in choosing who and what to endorse on its sample ballot. The sample ballot issue had been before the committee for months, according to discussion at the meeting. […]
SUITLAND – Voters have tough decisions to make when they go to the polls in November, and the Democratic Central Committee (DCC) faced an equally arduous decision in choosing who and what to endorse on its sample ballot.
The sample ballot issue had been before the committee for months, according to discussion at the meeting. After debate for much of the evening, the committee approved a motion to release an electronic sample ballot listing the party’s official position on President of the United States, U.S. Senator and members of Congress, Circuit Court judges and a statewide constitutional amendment dealing with gubernatorial appointments. The ballot will not include any recommendations regarding school board candidates or the county’s two charter amendments.
Question D, one of the two charter amendments, was a particularly polarizing issue. It would add two at-large members to the county council.
Although state Senator Jim Rosapepe and county council Chair Derrick Davis reportedly recommended the DCC support the measure, grassroots organizing group Progressive Maryland stood in opposition, saying the committee should take no position.
Larry Stafford, executive director of Progressive Maryland, said the majority of the citizens in attendance at the meeting were there specifically because of Question D.
“People came out because progressive Prince Georgians are really upset about this proposal. People are really fired up about it and I think that was shown with the people who made it out,” he said.
He said he is pleased that in the end the DCC decided not to take a position on the issue.
“I’m very happy that the Democratic Central Committee moved to take no position on Question D. I think Question D is a divisive measure. It’s not a proposal that the Democratic Party should be endorsing,” he said.
The central committee is made up of citizens elected by voters registered in the party. Its role is to decide the official position of the party on given issues and to serve as the main organizing arm for the party.
The initial sample ballot proposal introduced at the DCC’s July meeting recommended support for both Question D and another county charter amendment, Question G, which would require the legislative and executive branches to seek outside counsel if the county attorney determines there is a conflict of interest in representing one branch in a case against the other. It also included school board endorsements. Ballot questions require a two-thirds majority vote of the DCC members’ support to determine the party’s official position, and the measure fell short in July.
Initially, there was confusion as to what the vote at the last meeting actually signified. Some members thought that because school board and other endorsements only require a simple majority to pass, those sections of the ballot had, in fact, passed.
But other members pointed out because the committee voted not to separate the issues into different votes, the vote applied to the ballot as a whole, not the individual sections.
“The motion was made to separate the ballot initiatives from the endorsed candidates. That motion failed. Therefore, in the spirit of voting for that ballot, it was the entire ballot that would need to pass by the two-thirds majority, which it did not,” said DCC member Theresa Dudley.
Dudley and other committee members throughout the meeting questioned whether a sample ballot could be made up at all after a motion by member Belinda Queen-Howard to reconsider the July vote did not pass.
“It was brought up again to this body, we voted it down. So that is moot. Now we’re back to just putting a ballot out and what’s on that ballot. The questions cannot be on there because that has already been voted against,” member Denise Riley said.
The DCC’s legal counsel said the motion made by Nicole Williams was “substantially different” from the motion to reconsider and could be acted on by the committee.
Williams’ motion was amended several times before the final vote to address committee members’ concerns. Some on the committee said creating a sample ballot wasn’t feasible due to cost constraints.
“We don’t have the money to be putting out a ballot, so all of this is really a moot question,” member Veronica Davila-Steele said. “We are still collecting money trying to cover the last ballot that we did. We still have not finished paying for that one. So all of this is really a waste of time.”
The amendment specifying that the sample ballot would be electronic was added to address that concern.
Del. Carlos Sanchez (D-47B), also a committee member, asked the committee to amend the motion to approve a “yes” vote on Question 1, the state ballot question, as the party’s official position. If passed, it would require the governor to appoint an attorney general or comptroller from a list of names given by the political party of the person who stepped down, so the new appointee would be from the same political party as the elected officeholder.
“I would recommend a yes vote. The General Assembly voted it out, so that was the House of Delegates and the Senate both voted that out,” Sanchez said.
Williams accepted that amendment. The only one she did not accept came from Dudley, which spelled out specific means of distributing the electronic ballot. Williams said she would leave those details to the PR committee.
“The other piece that you’re adding, that I do not accept because that, to me, is just the logistical details of how it goes up,” she said.