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Voters deciding public finance for Howard County elections, term limits for Carroll school board

Public financing of campaigns, zoning, school board term limits among local ballot questions.

As Marylanders cast ballots Tuesday for national and statewide races, Baltimore-area voters also faced ballot questions in their home jurisdictions on issues related to campaign finance, term limits and zoning provisions for outlet malls.

In Howard County, voters approved a proposal to establish a public funding system for candidates running for County Council and county executive. The issue had been hotly debated in weeks leading up to Tuesday's vote.

The plan, which takes effect for the 2022 election, will require candidates to raise a certain amount of campaign funds to qualify. Some of their donations will then be matched by the public fund.

The question was placed on the ballot by the County Council, supported by its Democratic members. Groups such as Common Cause and Maryland PIRG back the plan, saying public financing can level the election playing field and limit special-interest influence.

But opponents, including the group Howard County Citizens Against Question A and County Executive Allan Kittleman, a Republican, said they disagreed with using tax dollars to fund political campaigns, and said it would essentially force residents to support candidates — whether they agree with their positions or not.

Howard County residents also approved a change to the county budget process allowing the County Council to cut the budget — then reallocate that money into the county pension system or a reserve fund. Currently, the council is limited in how it can reallocate budget money.

In Baltimore County, with most precincts reporting, voters backed creation of a charter review commission to recommend changes in how county government operates. The idea for the commission was advocated by County Councilman David Marks, who said it's needed to help improve government efficiency.

The commission would meet every 10 years to recommend changes to the structure of government. Voters would then decide on those proposals in subsequent elections.

Baltimore County voters also approved a proposal to allow an outlet mall near the intersection of Interstate 95 and Route 43 in White Marsh.

The question was made moot earlier this year when Paragon Outlet Partners secured rezoning to permit the project at the site. Still, opponents collected enough signatures to put the question on the ballot — and the developers waged a campaign urging residents to vote yes.

With most precincts reporting, Baltimore County voters supported by wide margins ballot questions that allow the county to borrow money for projects such as school renovations, roads and purchase of new parkland.

In Anne Arundel County, voters approved several ballot questions aimed at updating government operations, including requiring the county executive to hold two public meetings before introducing the budget, getting rid of a rule requiring the county code to be reprinted every decade and changing the title of the county economic development officer.

Anne Arundel voters defeated one ballot question that would have required government contracts worth $75,000 or more to be bid competitively, instead of the current threshold of $25,000.

In Carroll County, voted overwhelmingly supported a ballot question placing term limits on members of the Board of Education. Members will be allowed to serve two consecutive four-year terms.

And in Harford County, with most precincts reporting, voters approved the lone county ballot question to place Harford's property management under the purview of the director of administration, instead of the county director of procurement.

Baltimore Sun Media Group reporters Fatimah Waseem, Amanda Yeager, Heather Norris and David Anderson contributed to this article.

pwood@baltsun.com

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