Baltimore officials want to move to federal election cycle

Baltimore officials plan to ask the General Assembly to pass legislation to align the city's municipal elections with the federal cycle, the city's chief lobbyist said Monday.

The change would "save the City money and engage more citizens in our elections," according to a memo the lobbying team handed out to City Council members at a luncheon meeting Monday.

City elections are now held a year after Maryland statewide elections. Baltimore residents elected a mayor and City Council members in 2011, and the next election is scheduled for 2015.

The timing of the city's general election can be changed by city voters through referendum, but only the General Assembly can change the year of the primary. That was a problem in 1999, when a city referendum moved the general election to November 2004 but the General Assembly left the primary on the old schedule of September 2003, creating a 14-month gap.

Mary Pat Fannon, who heads the Mayor's Office of Intergovernmental Relations, told council members Monday that moving the election was among the city's goals in the annual General Assembly session that begins Wednesday.

Fannon said state Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden and Del. Luke Clippinger, both Baltimore Democrats, plan to jointly sponsor a bill to change to the federal cycle. If the General Assembly passed the primary legislation and a city referendum moved the general, the changes would lead to elections in 2016 and every four years after. City officials elected last November would serve a five-year term, Fannon told the council.

The proposal to change the city's election cycle comes after record low voter turnout in the September primary that in predominantly Democratic Baltimore generally determines the city's leadership. About 22 percent of registered voters cast ballots in the primary; about 13 percent voted in the general election.