In a typical citywide election, Bowie officials would need to oversee eight polling locations, 32 voting machines, not to mention a host of volunteers, absentee ballots and informational signs.
On Dec. 19, the city will hold a special recall election for voters to determine the political future of District 2 council member Diane Polangin. The voting will take place only in District 2, with just two polling places and six voting machines.
But the job has still created some scrambling and some uncertainty about what to do and how to do it where the special election is concerned. There is no template for how to set up such an election because the city of Bowie has never had one before.
“We’re just going to do it on a smaller scale than a regular election,” said city clerk Awilda Hernandez, the city’s elections administrator. “It’s new to all of us.”
The signatures on the petition to recall Polangin (about 3,000 in all) were certified on the evening of Nov. 20. According to the city charter, the recall election must be held no more than 30 days after the signatures are approved by the city.
But the 30-day window created a bit of a time crunch for Hernandez and people like Una Cooper, the city’s communications manager. It’s her job to make sure the word gets out about the special election, so she’s directed city employees to post 19 signs in various locations around the city. Cooper also has been trying to alert people about the election by any means she can.
“We’ve never had one of these (recall elections), so it was quick turnaround and we’re using the (city) web site and social media a lot,” she said. “I think the neighborhood signs are going to be critical.”
The recall election was triggered after a group called Bowie Citizens for Accountable Government submitted a petition to the city in early November asking for a recall vote for Polangin.
A news release issued by the group cited Polangin’s “nonfeasance,” or failure to do what ought to be done in office.
Much of the anger directed toward city officials in recent months has concerned the city’s approval in January of a 225-unit apartment complex behind the new Marketplace shopping center.
Polangin cast one of the votes for approval and the measure passed, 4-3.
The actual ballot for the recall election will include just one question: “Do you vote to recall from her city elective office District 2 council member Diane Polangin?” District 2 residents will simply vote – via touchscreen – yes or no.
The touchscreen machines will be the same ones the city used (the machines are actually rented from a private company) for the last citywide election in 2015, Hernandez said.
Two polling places will be set up in District 2 – the same spots used in citywide elections. Voters in District 2A will cast their ballots at Community Christian Presbyterian Church on Belair Drive. Voters in 2B will vote at the Kenhill Center, which once served as City Hall.
Neighborhoods in District 2 include: Belair Town, Bowie Forest, Fairview, Glenridge, Grady’s Walk, Highbridge Park, Meadowbrook (only the streets south and west of Millstream Drive), Somerset, Stewart’s Landing, and Tulip Grove. District 2B neighborhoods include Buckingham, Derbyshire, Forest Hills, Foxhill, Longridge and Kenilworth.
If there are more votes to remove Polangin from office than there are to keep her in place, she could still run in the subsequent special election that would be held. According to the city charter, that election would have to be held 60-90 days after the recall election.
The polls will be open on Dec. 19 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.