Ahead of its special by-mail election to fill a vacant city council seat, Brunswick reaffirmed its commitment to conducting nonpartisan elections.
The council unanimously passed a fair-election amendment to the city charter on Tuesday.
The amendment prohibits any partisan activity during an election cycle, including seeking or proclaiming any support from a political party.
It calls for the names of the candidates to be arranged alphabetically on the ballot with no party affiliation indicated and imposes a disclaimer on any material published in support or opposition of a candidate that the material was not authorized or approved by any candidate.
The amendment did not pass before a provision was removed that sought to define partisan activity more specifically.
The provision was opposed by Councilman Vaughn Ripley, which prompted a spirited debate among the council members for several minutes.
Brunswick’s elections have always run on the presumption there would be no partisanship. But many feel that civic agreement, which had always been non-binding, was violated during the vote-by-mail election over the summer that appointed a new mayor and three new council members, when one of the candidates ran an openly partisan campaign.
JoeyLynn Hough ran for a council seat on a Republican Party platform and encouraged city residents to vote along party lines. Hough is the wife of Maryland state Sen. Michael Hough (R).
Violators of the new fair-election amendment will now come before an ethics commission, which can impose a fine between $5 and $500 and a jail term of up to 90 days.
Brunswick will conduct a special election by mail to fill the council seat of Nathan Brown, who vacated it after he was elected mayor.
Candidate filing packets are due Nov. 16, and absentee ballots will be available and mailed out on Nov. 30.
All ballots must be received by the city by 8 p.m. Dec. 15 to be counted.