Voters Approve Option for Special Elections for County Executives

Voters approved a referendum providing charter counties with the option to fill vacancies of the office of county executive through a special election, with approximately 80.5% of voters supporting the amendment according to unofficial results of the Board of Elections.  Under current law, charter counties are only authorized to hold a special election to fill a vacancy of a county council member.

This referendum was approved for the ballot through legislation passed during the General Assembly’s 2014 session. As stated in MACo’s testimony on the legislation,

Under the Maryland Constitution, a charter county has the authority to fill a council seat vacated during the middle of a term through a special election, but not the office of the county executive. HB 1415 would extend this same process to the office of county executive should the governing body choose to fill the vacancy in this manner.

Before this could occur, the constitutional amendment proposed by this bill would first need to be approved through referendum. If approved, a charter county would then need to propose a change to its charter through referendum to authorize a special election for this purpose. This would give the voting public sufficient opportunity to review and approve any such change.

The referendum also authorizes a county to conduct the special election by mail.  MACo supported this legislation, stating it provides greater flexibility to charter counties for filling a county executive vacancy in the middle of a term.

As described in the referendum,

Jurisdictions that operate under charter home rule currently include Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Cecil, Dorchester, Harford, Howard, Montgomery, Prince George’s, Talbot, and Wicomico counties. Frederick County will become a charter county on December 1, 2014. Of these jurisdictions, Baltimore City has an elected mayor and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Cecil, Harford, Howard, Montgomery, Prince George’s, and Wicomico counties have elected county executives. Frederick County will have an elected county executive when it becomes a charter county on December 1, 2014.

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