Laurel elections board finalizes November ballot

There were no surprises Monday, Oct. 7, when the Laurel Board of Election Supervisors finalized the ballot for the November City Council race.

Although there was some controversy last month surrounding the submission of campaign reports by three candidates challenging the five incumbents, the official ballot will display the names of all eight candidates who filed in the race, according to John Kish, chairman of the Board of Election Supervisors.

"We checked everything out and everything is fine. We are ready to go for November," Kish said.

The candidates on the ballot for the Nov. 5 City Council elections are John Matthews Smith and current Council members Edward Ricks and Valerie Nicholas in the Ward 1 race; Thomas Matthews and current Council members Fred Smalls and Donna Crary in the Ward 2 race; and Adrian Rousseau and current Council member Mike Leszcz in the at-large race. Voters will elect a total of five Council members, two from each ward and one at-large member.

Last month, the Board of Election Supervisors asked Smith, Matthews and Rousseau to resubmit their financial disclosure forms and extended the filing deadline because, according to Kish, the forms lacked basic information like address, income, debts and place of employment.

The city's Ethics Commission found all three newly submitted reports to be sufficient at a special meeting on Oct. 2.

According to Ethics Commission Chairman Jim Hester, the job of the commission is to review, and make the elections board aware of, any potential conflicts of interest if the candidates were elected. Hester said the commission has no jurisdiction over the candidates until they are sworn in.

Kish said extending the deadline for the challengers was done to be fair, and chalked the incompleteness up to the challengers' inexperience.

Voting process tweaked

Some changes to the city's voting procedures, which were overhauled in 2011, will be introduced this year, according to City Council Clerk Kimberly Rau.

Beginning in the 2011 elections, voters only vote for the candidates running in their own ward; but all residents can vote for the at-large council member. That change, along with the addition of early voting, will be carried over to 2013.

However, according to Rau, the city has tweaked the early voting process by limiting it to only one day; in this year's election, early voting is Saturday, Nov. 2, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Laurel Municipal Center for both wards. In 2011, early voting was held over three days.

Early voters will also use voting machines this year, as opposed to the paper ballots used in the 2011 election.

Rau said the city will change how it tallies the votes also. At the close of the polls on Nov. 5, the city will count all votes on the machines from early voting and from Election Day.

Then on Wednesday, Nov. 6, the Board of Election Supervisors will count the absentee ballots, which will be accepted in the mail up until 5 p.m. Nov. 6, so long as the ballot is postmarked before Election Day.

Rau said the deadline to apply to the city for absentee ballots is Oct. 29, and that the city will begin mailing out the blank ballots next week.

Polls will be open on Tuesday, Nov. 5, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Ward 1 residents will vote at the Laurel Municipal Center, 8103 Sandy Spring Road; and Ward 2 residents will vote at the Robert J. DiPietro Community Center, 7901 Cypress St.

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