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Westminster alters election protocols, adds requirements

Candidates who run for election in Westminster will need their own treasurer and a separate bank account.

Westminster’s Mayor and Common Council approved changes to election protocols recommended by the city’s election board Monday. They also implemented their own rule.

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The city’s election board, which has existed for less than two years, requested to give candidates six weeks to file for candidacy before the deadline instead of four weeks. The board also wanted each candidate to nominate a campaign treasurer who tracks the contributions and expenditures. They suggested removing a form for candidates who received less than $50 in donations, and amending the absentee ballot request deadline from 10 days prior to the election, to the Monday before the election.

All were approved by the council at a Dec. 21 meeting. They were first addressed at the Dec. 14 meeting when it appeared on the agenda as an emergency order.

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Council member Tony Chiavacci said he didn’t like that it was an emergency because he had only heard about this when he opened the council packet a few days earlier. His only problem with the recommendations, he said, are the treasury positions. He did not accept any contributions when he was campaigning and did not understand why other candidates would need a treasurer if they did the same.

“I think it’s a silly drill to appoint a campaign treasurer to say I’m not taking any money,” he said.

Shannon Visocsky, the city clerk, said the goal was to make the candidate form simpler after receiving feedback that it was complicated.

“I feel like it’s making it easier for us to have a paper for each and every candidate,” Wendy Raith, chair of Westminster’s board of elections, said. “If you don’t accept any money, just very quickly, write that on a piece of paper. Maybe you can get a treasurer to write the same thing.”

Chief election judge Wendy Raith, right, shows voter Tom Dowd how to operate the new voting machines used in Westminster's municipal election at the Westminster fire company's John Street Quarters Tuesday, May 14, 2019.
Chief election judge Wendy Raith, right, shows voter Tom Dowd how to operate the new voting machines used in Westminster's municipal election at the Westminster fire company's John Street Quarters Tuesday, May 14, 2019. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

“I’m trying to help the integrity of the election,” she added.

Raith added later that Visocsky spoke with a few cities about their process, which is how the board’s ideas came about.

Mayor Joe Dominick said he saw the adjustment as two forms becoming one and noted it hardly changed the procedure.

Council member Kevin Dayhoff said he thought it was mandatory for candidates to have an authority line, or a line that declares an ad was paid for or approved by the candidate. And council member Ann Gilbert said she was under the impression a separate bank account was mandatory for candidates.

But neither was the case. Although, the mayor said both would be good measures to have.

Elissa Levan, the city’s attorney, said the council gets to make almost all the decisions about how the elections in the city are run.

Dayhoff said he wasn’t sure what to do and the elections board wanted the council to adopt it that evening.

Council president Greg Pecoraro said he was told the city clerk wanted an emergency order because the council did not have any more regular meetings scheduled before the end of the year, with the next meeting scheduled for the middle of January, a time when potential candidates are already asking questions about the filing process. He said they would benefit from having a few more days to address some of the questions that were asked.

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The approval of the revisions was postponed to a special meeting that took place Monday.

Elizabeth F. Mathias and her son R. Douglas Mathias check in with election judges Mary Louise Poole and Rick Blizzard, right, as chief judge Wendy Raith stands by, before voting in Westminster's municipal election at the Westminster fire company's John Street Quarters Tuesday, May 14, 2019.
Elizabeth F. Mathias and her son R. Douglas Mathias check in with election judges Mary Louise Poole and Rick Blizzard, right, as chief judge Wendy Raith stands by, before voting in Westminster's municipal election at the Westminster fire company's John Street Quarters Tuesday, May 14, 2019. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

Although Chiavacci had previously raised a question about having a treasurer, he said Monday he now agreed with it. But he did have a request, and that was to add a check box indicating the candidate is not accepting donations. He said the candidate forms read as if having a separate bank account is required.

However, Pecoraro said they do not need to go that far. Having a treasurer monitor intake and spending is enough, he added.

A few minutes of discussion led Dominick to propose requiring a separate bank account, instead of a check box, for candidates who receive a contribution.

The recommended provisions from the elections board, as well as a proposal for a separate bank account, were voted on and approved by the council with a unanimous vote. Although the authority line was mentioned at the previous meeting, it was not discussed on Monday.

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