Montgomery County Ballot Questions for the November 2018 Election

by Paul Bessel, Chairperson of the Montgomery County Charter Review Commission

The ballot for the November 2018 Montgomery County election will include five questions: two statewide and three countywide questions.The Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee (MCDCC) Precinct Organization met on September 20th about these ballot questions. They decided to support both the statewide questions and to take no position on the three county questions. Their decisions on each question are noted within the article.

Statewide: Two Constitutional Amendments

Question 1

Constitutional Amendment (Ch. 357 of the 2018 Legislative Session)
Requiring Commercial Gaming Revenues that are for Public Education to Supplement Spending for Education in Public Schools

Explanation: When Maryland started permitting gambling in our state, the Constitution and laws permitting it specified that all taxes paid to the state through gambling would go to add funds to education. This has not been the case. If this amendment is adopted, it would establish a “lock box” guaranteeing that money from gambling goes only to education.

Pro—If adopted, the amendment is intended to guarantee that all gambling money that goes to the state would go only to add funds to education in Maryland.

Con—The state should have the flexibility to use this money for purposes other than education if necessary.

MCDCC Precinct Organization Position: Support.

Question 2

Constitutional Amendment (Ch. 855 of the 2018 Legislative Session)
Same-Day Registration and Voting at the Precinct Polling Place on Election Day

Explanation: Maryland General Assembly legislation allows same-day registration only during Early Voting. An amendment to the State Constitution would allow qualified individuals to register and vote on Election Day.

Pro—It should be as easy as possible for voters to register. Since some voters might not register before Election Day, this would encourage more voters to register and then be allowed to vote immediately.

Con—This might allow some voters to cheat by registering to vote on Election Day even if they are not really eligible to vote.

MCDCC Precinct Organization Position: Support.


Montgomery County: Three Charter Amendments By Act of County Council

Question A

Charter Amendment by Act of County Council
Redistricting Procedure - Composition of Redistricting Commission

Amend Section 104 of the County Charter to remove party central committees from the process for selecting the Redistricting Commission appointed by the Council every ten years to review the boundaries of Council districts, and providing that the Redistricting Commission must:

  • be composed of 11 County residents who are registered voters;

  • include at least one, but no more than four members of each political party which polled at least fifteen percent of the total vote cast for all candidates for the Council in the last preceding regular election; and

  • include at least one member from each Council district.

Explanation: Every ten years, after the federal census, Montgomery County appoints a Redistricting Commission to recommend changes in the boundaries of the five Councilmanic districts to ensure that each contains the same number of citizens. As of now, the Redistricting Commission is made up of nine County residents who are registered voters. The political parties that received 15% of the votes – in effect, only the Democratic and Republican parties – each submit lists of eight people to the County Council. The Council then must select four from each list, and add one more.

Pro—This amendment would make the redistricting process less partisan. For the first time, voters who are not Democrats or Republicans could be appointed to any of the positions on the Redistricting Commission.

Con—Some Republicans testified on this proposal saying they wish to be guaranteed four seats on the Redistricting Commission, and that voters who are unaffiliated or members of small parties need not be considered for membership on that Commission, other than the one spot as is the case now.

MCDCC Precinct Organization Position: Did not take a position.

Question B

Charter Amendment by Act of County Council
Property Tax Limit - Votes Needed to Override

Amend Section 305 of the County Charter to require an affirmative vote of all current Councilmembers, rather than the specific nine votes currently required, to levy a tax on real property that will produce revenue that exceeds the annual limit on property tax revenue set in that section.

Explanation: The Charter now says that if the Council finds it necessary to increase the property tax rate above the annual increase in the Consumer Price Index, exactly nine votes are needed. Amending Section 305 of the County Charter would require an affirmative vote of all current Councilmembers, rather than the specific nine votes currently required, to levy a tax on real property that would produce revenue exceeding the annual limit on property tax revenue set in that section.

Pro—This would permit the Council to increase the property tax rate above the Consumer Price Index if members felt it was necessary, even if there were vacancies on the Council.

Con—Some voters would not want the Council to be able to raise the property tax level if there were not nine current sitting members of the Council.

MCDCC Precinct Organization Position: Did not take a position.

Question C

Charter Amendment by Act of County Council
Merit System - Councilmembers' Aides

Amend Section 401 of the County Charter to permit each Councilmember to have one or more aides as non-merit employees, rather than the one confidential aide currently permitted.

Explanation: Currently the Charter allows each Councilmember to appoint one assistant outside the merit system, in which case he or she would not have access to the protection given Civil Service workers. If this amendment were to be adopted, each Councilmember would be allowed one or more aides outside of the merit system, rather than the one aide currently permitted. These employees could be fired at any time without cause.

Pro—This would give the Councilmembers more flexibility in hiring and firing assistants.

Con—Some might say that even those assisting Councilmembers should have the equivalent of Civil Service protection.

MCDCC Precinct Organization Position: Did not take a position.

Learn More

Read WAMU’s article by Martin Austermuhle, Ballot Questions 101: A Guide To What Maryland Voters Will Decide On In November