Citing the dismal participation rates in recent year an old proposition has resurfaced – moving the town’s election date from October to coincide with federal elections in November.
The idea has been floated at least once before in 2010 when the council rejected it 6-1. The lone dissenter was Joe Hall.
Town officials pointed to cost savings and convenience when arguing in favor of the proposed change. Jim Hall was quoted in published reports arguing for the majority opinion that rejected the idea, saying the October date was Ocean City’s day to shine.
Of Maryland’s 157 towns and cities, only one other holds its elections on the federal Election Day. None are held in December, and May is the most popular month.
To make the change, Ocean City’s charter would have to be amended, and the Worcester Board of Elections would be required. It’s possible Worcester County itself may have a hand in this too.
Estimates of up to $10,000 in savings have been published in favor of making the change, and other effects, like potential voters only having to keep one day in mind every couple of years to vote are potential positives.
Ocean City reported less than 25% participation in the last elections – rounding up that’s only about 2,000 votes total.
October is a potentially busy month in Ocean City, sometimes due to the weather and tourist activity, but sometimes because of the opposite. If the weather isn’t so good or a lot of people haven’t been visiting this time of year, many shop owners consider closing for the year. In that case, residents are busy closing up shop and are even planning their own vacations during this time.
This is, of course, what absentee ballots were made for, but voting isn’t compulsory here like it is in some other democracies.
That low turnout may not repeat itself this year, however, change or no. There has been a great deal of local activism surrounding the ouster – whether it was forced or friendly has yet to be determined – of popular longtime City Manager Dennis Dare in September. No formal explanation has been given or is required of the council but at least one group popped up on social media the next day and remains actively involved with voter registration and participation efforts.
It will be interesting to see if the civil activism continues into October or November, whatever the council decides the date will be at their next scheduled meeting.