The eight amendments to Anne Arundel County’s governing documents are all on track to pass after two days of mail-in ballot canvassing finished Monday night.
Many of the amendments were suggested by the county’s Charter Revision Commission, which reviews the County Charter every 10 years, and all but one have received widespread support as ballots are counted. They include Question B, which would extend County Council term limits to three consecutive four-year terms rather than two and Question A, codifying the county’s Veterans Affairs Commission. Those questions have received 78% and 85% support, respectively, according to returns published Tuesday.
Question H, however, is seeing notable opposition. The last question on Anne Arundel ballots asked voters to approve changes to language in the charter from male-dominant to gender-neutral. So far, 45% of voters, or more than 71,000 people, voted against it. Other questions only had between 18,000 and 38,000 votes in opposition.
Karen McMullen who voted at Old Mill Middle School with her husband, Michael, on Election Day said the question stuck out to her.
“It really annoyed me,” said McMullen, a registered Democrat who said she tends to favor Republican candidates.
The County Charter, which was adopted in 1964, references people who hold various local offices. On second reference, some of those people are referred to as “he” or “him.”
For example, the county auditor, who reviews the jurisdiction’s financial matters, is written into the charter as a man in some sections.
“The County Council shall, by resolution, appoint a County Auditor who shall hold office, for an indefinite term at the pleasure of the Council and shall receive such compensation as the Council may determine,” the charter reads. “He shall be a certified public accountant licensed for the practice of his profession under the laws of this State, and shall be appointed on the basis of his knowledge of governmental accounting and auditing.”
The current Anne Arundel County auditor, Michelle Bohlayer, is a woman. Women could always hold office in Anne Arundel, County Council Administrative Officer Laura Corby said, but men always held the majority of positions.
The amendment, if passed, would update the charter language to acknowledge people of all genders may serve in these roles.
Another voter, Camille Jones, liked seeing the county trying to use more updated and accurate terminology.
“I noticed that was one of the questions down-ballot, should the county be more consistent in their gender-neutral language, which I definitely agree with,” Jones said.
Maryland Policy & Politics
The question with the most support at this point in the race is Question E which, if passed, would amend the charter to clarify the difference between the two kinds of emergency ordinances, those that are classified as emergency based on public health and well-being versus those that need to be passed quicker than usual to meet financial deadlines. Only 18,525, or 13%, have voted against it so far while 127,618, or 87%, were in favor.
Question A, which would require the county’s Veterans Affairs Commission, which already exists, be enshrined in the charter documents, had the second most support with 85% support, or 126,148 votes.
Question B asked if term limits should be extended to three consecutive four-year terms, replacing the current two terms. It also received broad support with around 124,000 votes in favor so far. It’s the ballot measure that would likely change the functioning of county government in Anne Arundel the most. If passed, the county will need to determine if council members will be eligible for pensions as they will now be able to serve 10 consecutive years, the minimum to get a county pension.
Other Maryland jurisdictions, including Baltimore, Cecil, Dorchester, Harford, Talbot, and Wicomico counties, have no term limits on council members, according to the Charter Revision Commission’s report.
“I feel like that’s something that we need to have across the board at all levels of government, whether that’s state or federal government,” the voter Jones said. “I think it’s crazy that there can be people who are elected over and over for years and not really affect any change at all.”
The remainder of around 15,000 mail-in ballots will be counted Thursday and Friday, while about 7,500 provisional ballots will be counted Wednesday at the Anne Arundel County Board of Elections headquarters in Glen Burnie.
The deadline to certify the election is Friday.