Town officials talk about
Emmitsburg town commissioners are considering new election laws that would
go into effect during the next town election in April.
Commission President Bill O'Neil submitted a draft of the new laws for
discussion to the board at Monday's town meeting.
After much discussion, the board agreed to ask town staff to bring a draft
of the rules to a vote at the Nov. 1 town meeting. While board members agreed
that election rules were needed, they did not all agree on all of the proposed
rules. One rule that was heavily debated dealt with election monitoring by
The rule, as proposed by O'Neil, read, "All candidates for elective office
whose names are printed on the official Emmitsburg ballot, are entitled to
designate one individual to monitor the vote counting and take notes, without
interfering in the election process." O'Neil said most municipalities have poll
watchers to prevent animosity between different campaigns. He said he was a
poll watcher when he lived elsewhere and it was "quite boring."
Diane Walbrecker said she wasn't sure why poll watchers were needed
when the town appoints election judges who are "upstanding citizens of the
Walbrecker said she worried election judges would assume they weren't
trusted if poll watchers were created. She also argued that in a small town
such as Emmitsburg, many candidates -- including herself -- don't have a
campaign staff and would have trouble finding someone to act as a poll watcher.
Commissioner Joyce Rosensteel said she agreed with Walbrecker and would
not want to be a judge and "have someone staring at me while I'm trying to do
O'Neil said it wasn't a matter of trust. "Your numbers should match up with
my numbers, and if you're 20 off of mine, there's something wrong here...
Everybody's numbers should jive..." he said.
Hoover agreed that poll watchers were not needed and that most places
with poll watchers are much larger than Emmitsburg. He said the ability to
appeal the vote count would still exist and should address any concerns.
In an informal vote, the board otherwise agreed with the rules as proposed.
One of the rules was to put restrictions on how close campaigners will be
permitted to stand to the polling place. While discussion considered distances
ranging from 50 feet to 300 feet, the board members seemed to be most
comfortable with 100 feet.
Hoover said after the meeting that elections would continue to be held at
the former town hall on East Main Street and he thought 100 feet was
The board also discussed whether to include a provision making it possible
for an elected official to be recalled from office.
They said that while state laws require signatures on a recall petition from
20 percent of the registered voters, the board agreed informally that the
percentage should be higher in Emmitsburg because it's a small town.
Board members joked that 25 percent of the town is always upset with
something their elected officials have done and it would be too "easy" to get
that many signatures. They agreed that requiring 50 percent of the signatures
of registered voters would be more reasonable.
After the discussion, the board asked the town staff to put together a draft
ordinance that would include the election rules they discussed and bring them
back for vote at the Nov. 1 meeting.
Board adds second monthly meeting
In other business, the board unanimously approved a change to a town
ordinance to add another town meeting each month. Previously the board only met
on the first Monday of each month.
Effective immediately, the board of commissioners will meet on the first and
third Mondays of each month. The next meeting of the board will be at 7:30
p.m., Monday, Oct. 18. If the first Monday meeting falls on a holiday, the
meeting will move to the next night a Tuesday. If the meeting on the third
Monday falls on a holiday, the meeting will be moved to Wednesday of the same