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From the Desk of
County Executive Jan Gardner

(11/2016) As Americans, we are privileged to live in a democracy where every citizen has an equal voice in the future of our nation. Voting is both a privilege and a civic responsibility. Your vote matters and can make a big difference in shaping the future of our community and county. It was only two years ago that one of our County Council seats was decided by a mere 25 votes! Every vote counts!

It is time to get out and vote in the general election coming up on Tuesday, November 8th. Early voting is already under way and runs through Thursday, November 3rd. Take advantage of the convenience of early voting. The closest voting center to most north county residents is the Thurmont Regional Library on East Moser Road in Thurmont. Polls are open each day of early voting from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

I want Frederick County residents to be assured that the voting system in Maryland is totally secure. Nationally, some people have expressed concern that hackers might be able to compromise voting systems and alter results. In Frederick County and in Maryland, no part of our certified voting system is connected to the Internet. Ballot marking devices and scanners are stand alone and are never connected to the internet. Final ballots are scanned to a stand-alone local server. Maryland has also returned to a voting system with paper ballots. If there is ever a need for a re-count or to re-certify results, results can be verified with paper ballots, which are stored in a secure location.

I want to urge voters to VOTE YES to Questions A and B on the ballot. Questions A and B are amendments to the Frederick County Charter. The Frederick County Charter can only be changed by a vote of general public. Both amendments A and B were supported by every member of the County Council and are supported by myself as well.

Question A requires the Council to provide at least four daysí notice when a second public hearing is needed on proposed legislation. When a bill is introduced and accepted by the County Council, the bill is scheduled for a public hearing that is advertised in a local newspaper for at least two weeks. The amendment would only come into play if the Council makes a change to a bill after its initial public hearing and wants to have a second public hearing on the proposed change. If Question A passes, the Council could hold a second public hearing the following week to gather additional input in response to the publicís initial feedback. Notice of the second public hearing would be made on the Countyís website.

Many citizens use the county website because it provides more information and details than a newspaper ad, including a full staff report and a copy of the proposed bill. Many residents do not read the public notices printed in the paper and these ads provide few details.

It is important to note that the Charter provides for a more transparent process than the former commission form of government. Under a commission form of government, many of the changes to a bill could be adopted and voted on the same night without a second hearing. Now, virtually all changes require a second hearing.

Question B on the ballot has two parts to it. First, it would extend the number of days the Council has to discuss and vote on the countyís budget each spring. Under the Charter as it reads today, the budget must be presented to the Council by April 15th and adopted no later than May 25th. This is only five weeks. Everyone agrees that the Council should have additional time to consider the budget. Question B adds six days to the timeline and sets a new deadline for adoption of the budget of May 31st. This also provides the public with more to time to weigh in on budget priorities.

The second part of Question B is similar to the notice requirement in Question A. If the Council makes a change to the proposed budget after the initial public hearing, a second public hearing could be announced on the County website with at least two daysí notice. Under the Commissioner form of government, changes to the budget did not require a second public hearing. Again, Charter government requires more public input.

I hope this additional information explains why these changes were supported unanimously by the County Council. These changes will make Charter government more responsive and efficient for the citizens of Frederick County.

Vote YES for Charter Amendments A and B.

Read other articles from Frederick County Government Officials