A letter from Republican delegates Reid Novotny, who represents Carroll and Howard counties, and Haven Shoemaker, who represents Carroll County, questioning the integrity of the Westminster municipal election was sent to city representatives Monday morning.
The city responded with a statement saying those concerns have no merit. The polls open Tuesday at 7 a.m.
Westminster’s mayoral race between Mona Becker and Dennis Dillon has reached a level of contentiousness unseen among other municipal elections in the county. The public has questioned partisan involvement, a candidate alleged malicious intent from a city newsletter and the current mayor accused a candidate’s letter to Republicans as an attempt to “dog whistle homophobes.”
The letter sent Monday from Novotny’s office and co-signed by Shoemaker claimed the city’s disallowance of poll watchers and elected officials’ support of one of the candidates is cause to question the election’s integrity. However, the statement from the city refutes that, stating that observers are being allowed and elected officials do not oversee the election.
Mayor Joe Dominick, who is not running for reelection, said those involved with Dillon’s campaign are using “the same playbook that was done at the national election,” referring to the way former President Donald Trump questioned first the legitimacy and then results of the 2020 election.
In the letter, Novotny and Shoemaker cite the newsletter misprint by the city when information about each candidate was sent by the city to Westminster voters. The information for Dillon, who justified the relevance of his being a member of the Republican party in the nonpartisan election, was replaced by a city council candidate’s information in what Dominick called an inadvertent misprint. The city corrected the error online, mailed out corrected versions and placed a full-page advertisement with the correct information in the Times.
The second reason the Republican delegates questioned the election’s integrity was that the mayor, the city council president and other councilmembers have publicly endorsed Becker, Dillon’s opponent.
And the third reason was the city’s supposed denial of Dillon’s request to allow poll watchers, or people within the Republican party or part of Dillon’s campaign, to monitor the voting process.
“Since the Mayor and most of the common council have publicly endorsed a specific candidate, they have a direct conflict of interest in ruling on matters relating to the conduct of the upcoming election on May 11th, and that all matters pertaining thereto should be decided by an independent body such as the Carroll County Board of Elections,” the letter states.
In response to the delegates’ letter, David J. Deutsch, interim city administrator for Westminster, sent a letter on behalf of the city stating that Novotny and Shoemaker’s concerns have no merit.
It acknowledges corrections made to the newsletter error. And clarified that elected officials are “categorically not overseeing an election; that is the function of the city’s Board of Elections.”
The letter continued, stating, “Council members have a right to speak in their own personal capacities and to express their personal opinions on the elections, just as members of the General Assembly do.”
The letter states the city has offered Dillon the opportunity to name observers, who must comply with COVID-19 and operational conditions, for the election, which he has accepted.
Prior to the city’s response, Novotny said allowing poll watchers would be the fastest way to allow for a better election, adding it would only strengthen the appearance of the election.
“We need an appearance of a great working system to have faith in our democracy,” he said.
Shoemaker said he’s dismayed by the way the election has turned out and said it’s odd that Dominick has been so involved. He said the city’s involvement in the newsletter error and the endorsement of Becker from city leaders makes him have “cause for concern” and called the election “suspect at best.”
He said one of the easiest things the city could do is allow for the poll watchers and said they should tell the public they will never use taxpayer resources to mail out information on candidates.
The Westminster election is set for Tuesday, May 11. The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Those who live east of Md. 31 should vote at John Street Quarters (at the Westminster Volunteer Fire Department), 28 John Street, and those who live west of Md. 31 should vote at the Community Building (at the municipal swimming pool), 325 Royer Road.
In addition to the position of mayor, two seats on the Westminster Common Council are at stake. Incumbent Tony Chiavacci, Daniel Hoff and Morgan Barkley-Mathers are running for the council.
Hampstead (three councilmembers), New Windsor (mayor and two councilmembers) and Union Bridge (three councilmembers) are also holding Tuesday, May 11 elections with polls opening from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at each town’s Town Hall.