Americans talk a good game on Memorial Day and Veterans Day about the sacrifices so many have made for American democracy. So it’s somewhat ironic and definitely disappointing that so many Americans don’t bother to participate in the simple act of voting in that democracy.

Frederick city elections, always following a presidential election year, are a case in point. Even when the Board of Aldermen decided to mail out ballots to every registered voter for the primary election held in September, participation was 17 percent, (and was only 8 percent among Republicans!) — just a notch up from usual. Turn-out in the general usually registers in the range of 21 to 23 percent; 2021 is unlikely to vary greatly.

It’s hard to blame non-voters because the election is just plain zany, and that’s saying something, because the city has held some zany elections in the past. In one, a long-time Democrat switched parties in order to run (successfully) against an incumbent mayor. In another, a former mayor challenged the city’s residency requirement for mayor in federal court so he could challenge his own party’s incumbent, perversely leaving the city for a period of time with no residency requirement. Another mayor was elected who many suspected never actually lived in the city during his tenure.

This year, controversy surrounds the Republican nominee, Steven Hammrick. Or perhaps you know him better as Steven Hamrick (with one “m”). Hammrick’s most notable appearance has come not in any campaign debate or forum, where he’s been a no-show, but in court in early October to answer assault charges. His second campaign report shows he has not rwaised or spent a dime in pursuit of the high office.

Jennifer Dougherty presumably was ready to accept the will of the voters if she won the Democratic primary for mayor, but since voters thought otherwise, she has now ungraciously offered herself as a write-in candidate. She’s on record believing that Mayor Michael O’Connor should have alerted voters to Hammrick’s criminal background.

However, shouldn’t the parties be policing themselves? But I’ve yet to hear a whisper from Republican Party officials about Hammrick, or why Republicans couldn’t field the minimum five candidates for aldermen (they’ve nominated just two). That’s particularly zany when you realize that Republican mayors have reigned for 24 of the last 32 years despite Democrats enjoying a significant plurality of registered voters.

In my 40 years as a city voter, I can’t remember another election where the result seems like such a foregone conclusion: I believe Michael O’Connor will be easily re-elected. (Disclosure: I am actively supporting O’Connor’s candidacy.)

So how do we convince more voters to participate in the city’s zany elections? The News-Post has stated its support for an old idea: switching the city election to the state/county election year. Former Delegate and County Commissioner Galen Clagett offered an alternative in a letter to the editor, suggesting it would make more sense to move the municipal election to the presidential year, where the ballot is very short — sometimes just president, senator, and representative in Congress.

Of course, turnout for state/county elections is far lower than presidential years. In 2018, Frederick County turnout in the general election was 63 percent compared to about 75 percent in the 2020 presidential election, but an abysmal city-like 22 percent in the primary. And by the time you reach judge of the orphans court on the lengthy ballot, 15 to 20 percent fewer voters are registering a preference.

So it remains to be seen whether adding a Frederick city election to the bottom of the state/county ballot would change participation at the municipal level in any appreciable way. Both suggestions merit more debate and consideration, something perhaps a “blue-ribbon panel” might consider once the dust settles from this year’s election.

Another idea for a blue-ribbon panel: Whether to elect aldermen by district instead of across the city at-large. Now there’s an idea that might spur voter interest by encouraging “neighborhood” candidates who might be daunted by running city-wide, and perhaps creating a different type of accountability when they serve on the board of aldermen.

Michael O’Connor should have quite the mandate to address some of these long-neglected ideas in a responsible fashion.

Don DeArmon has already voted in the general election and hopes the city will switch to a mail-only voting system for good. Email him at don.dearmon@gmail.com

(27) comments

kfmd

I am going to assume that the FNP will provide an equal voice to a Jennifer Dougherty supporter? Unbiased and all.

public-redux

Write a letter. I am, as yet, unpersuaded.

kfmd

An average Reader is given limited space. Only the board of contributors is permitted this.

public-redux

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Awteam2021

I agree , supporters of Jennifer should write-in ✍️. But Ms. Dougherty should do a better job of advocating for herself. Her letter to the editor published on October 7th, said “Michael O’Connor wasn’t a good leader” but didn’t say how she would do different. Shouldn’t she state how she would be better? What's her platform?

The turn-out for the Democratic primary was dismal, even worse for the Republicans. I would think for her to have a chance, she needs to motivate people to turn out for the general election that didn’t vote in the primaries. She needs to get a message out about herself, as well as the other guy is in the wrong person. Motivate.

Frederick has grown substantially since Jennifer was mayor, and many folks have no clue who she is. She needs to get the ‘welcome wagon’ rolling fast to have a chance.

https://www.fredericknewspost.com/opinion/letter_to_editor/dougherty-explains-write-in-campaign-for-mayor/article_c3ce47b5-922f-5229-8965-fe4f4d1d7c63.html

kfmd

AW She could have done a better job in that letter. But saying that she should have stated her platform and how she would do better would have been pointless in a limited letter to the editor. I think the absurdity of this election has us all a bit vexed.

All one has to do is go to her site and read it. An engaged and informed voter will see that she clearly states her leadership platform and the outline for what she will do.

https://jenniferformayor.com/leadership-and-actions

That same voter could then go to Michaels's site and read no new ideas, no planned initiatives, just past accomplishments, which fail compared to everything Jennifer accomplished in her 4 years.

So I guess you're right. She does need to find a way to motivate. But more importantly, she needs to eliminate the fear of the split vote. If people just aren't that pissed off that they were deceived, not just by Hamrick but by the O'connor admin, they are not going to take a chance on something different or better. They are going to stick with the status quo. Four more years of slow.

eak1969123

Republicans do not hold a majority of registered voters in any of the cities thirteen precincts. City wide, Republican registered voters are only 38% of all registered voters. The probability of a Republican getting elected to a city office is extremely low. Additionally, the Democratic party and Frederick News Post will publicly disparage and malign any Republican candidates. So why would a reasonable person with skills and a good standing in the community even attempt to run for office as a Republican? The Democrats have won.So spare us the condescension of wondering why more Republicans don't run or vote.

The Republican party never endorsed or approved of Hammrick's candidacy, so there is no need to support him. Curiously, the writer expressed no such concerns about the Democratic party remaining silent on the Alderman Wilson controversy.

eak1969123

You said this: he Democratic party and Frederick News Post will publicly disparage and malign any Republican candidates.

My sincerest apologies because I have also disparaged reasonable Republicans for not attempting to run for mayor. You make a valid point with your next statement that I had not considered as a fact until now? That the FNP and the democrats malign any Republican running for office......did you forget Blaine Young? The FNP kissed his behind all the time...have you forgotten that already? Then again the FNP kinda had no choice when it came to Blaine and the ties with the Conference Center that Blaine's daddy wants to build( but never will) They own the land.....

So why would a reasonable person with skills and a good standing in the community even attempt to run for office as a Republican? Well why not? What are you so afraid of if you have nothing to hide? Certainly nothing worse that what has already been hidden by the democrats. Again what are you afraid of?

But isn't that also what Republican do to Democrats around here too? Disparage and malign? Remember the Walkersville fair? Also back when Jennifer Dougherty was mayor and how hard the Republicans worked to de-mayor her. Hopefully you Republicans' will be a tad more polite this time to Ms. Dougherty?

Now as far the writer goes he wrote a column awhile back throwing his really good friend and pal Mr. Wilson under the bus so I don't think he cares much about the democratic party remaining silent on the Alderman Wilson controversy because the more they say about it the more it's going help Mr.Wilson when he holds them accountable for his public lynching.

The #MeToo movement comes to Frederick and me

https://www.fredericknewspost.com/opinion/columns/the-metoo-movement-comes-to-frederick-and-me/article_f143344f-3e3c-51cc-a829-a284bf7398c9.html

I really didn't like the premise of the column hijacking the #MeToo movement so he could throw his allegedly good pal under the bus...

Awteam2021

Seriously 😳. It’s the Democratic Party and the FNP for your candidate?

Eak, Who in the Republican Party, in Frederick County, in good standing that you would you prefer running as the mayoral candidate of Frederick City? Blaine Young?

In a heavily democratic state Hogan won the elected as Governor (republican). In a heavily democratic city, the previous mayor of Frederick City was Randy McClement (republican) 🤷‍♂️.

The Republican Party isn’t helping themselves with candidates like Hammrick or Hamrick - Steven or Stewie. Whatever his name is this week… Estranged from his family, flouting a firearm and choking his fiancé and now facing second-degree assault charges. How does that work? The Republican primary chose ( whatever his name is) to represent. You are witnessing lousy republican candidates. That not a winning formula for either party but obviously self-destructive to the Republican Party. Right?

Have you gotten over all the ‘Trump’ controversies yet? He hasn’t. I’m still waiting for the Republican Party to say the January 6 attack on the Capital was an insurrection led by Trump. It ain’t gonna’ happen. Right?

eak1969123

The point of my comment was not about national issues such as a capitol insurrection. I was speaking of local political issues. Nope. Never said Mr. DeAarmon did not address the Alderman Wilson issue. He did. I read his column about it. In his current column he was taking local Republicans to task for not commenting on Mr. Hemmrick. A candidate they do not support. He did not take the local Democratic party to task for remaining silent on the Alderman Wilson controversy. Double standard. Which is his prerogative. As it is mine to point out the hypocrisy. Not afraid of anything relative to Republicans running for city offices. My point is as a Republican running for a city office, the candidate would be eviscerated by the local Democratic party and Frederick News post while running for an office they could not win. Why bother? An exercise in futility. Gov. Hogan lost in Baltimore City, Montgomery County, Prince Georges County and broke even in Howard and Baltimore County. It was a large turnout in rural counties that gave him the victory. State wide results are not a viable argument for the city of Frederick. There is no counter balance to an over whelming democratic plurality in Frederick. Kudos to the dems' for winning. However, for the foreseeable future, Democrat's now own Frederick City, good, bad or mediocre. So if you are unhappy with what happens in Frederick, you know where to go for resolution. Good luck. By the way, yes a Republican.Nope. Not a Trump supporter. Also, the FNP kissing Blaine Young's backside? You must have been reading a different newspaper than I was.

Awteam2021

Eak, just 4 years ago, Randy McClement (republican) was mayor of Frederick City, a predominantly democratic town for two terms and W. Jeff Holtzinger (republican) served 4 years before him. 🤷‍♂️ Right? That’s pretty local and recent.

Awteam2021

Frederick City has a higher % of registered Republican voters than the State. Frederick City 38% verses 31% state wide.

Dwasserba

“… since voters thought otherwise, she has now ungraciously offered herself as a write-in candidate.” Kind of an intriguing risk too, considering how many voters still here were here during her fractious term. She has grit. That said, I am independent, and if turnout is low, hey I’m ok with voting on behalf of all who can’t be bothered.

TrekMan

Wouldn't it be ironic if Jennifer won. Could happen!!

sevenstones1000

The stakes are really very low in our local elections. The developers own the county and the only difference is which party can jump in bed with them fast enough. I’ve lived here 30 + years and haven’t seen any real difference with any Mayor or County official except for long ago Ron Young, who was a hot mess but at least he was a visionary who loved the city and rammed through actual improvements.

School Board is a different story and Trump Republicans must be kept off at all costs.

Dwasserba

Sooo being “a visionary who loved the city and rammed through actual improvements “ doesn’t spare you from being labeled a “hot mess.” 🤔 Whew. What does that make the rst of us…

sevenstones1000

Yeah, well he was. But he also got stuff done and Frederick thrived under his administrations. The two are not mutually exclusive. People are complicated.

Piedmontgardener

Agree on districts and also think that national partisanship has no place in a local election. We don't vote much in America, it's a long running trend other than the last Presidential election and it's particularly evident at the local level.

matthewboh

Again, the FNP needs to take some of the blame here. There was hardly a mention of the primary in your paper, there was no mention of the debates, there was no coverage of Hammrick and there's been hardly a peep about Roger Wilson. There's been no endorsement of any candidate. How's about vowing to do a better job for the next election, FNP? Not cool to blame it all on someone else.

Dwasserba

They never endorse.

CaringCommunity

"Michael O’Connor should have quite the mandate to address some of these long-neglected ideas in a responsible fashion."

He does not have a mandate, and, judging from the last four years and his eight years as an Alderman, it is not at all clear that he is up to the challenge. If Doguherty has a good showing, that will show that.

Also, a huge effort should be made to reach out to make sure that the 'blue ribbon panel' be much more diverse, and inclusive than usual.

Blueline

I don't think pushing people to vote is beneficial. Increasing the quantity of voters actually decreases the overall quality, as more poeple who have no idea about the issues cast a ballot, diluting the overall IQ of the electorate. It is sad that people don't take this right seriously, but many do not, and are not in any position to make a wise choice.

olefool

When you're mind is locked closed you cannot accuse another of ignorance.

Blueline

You're speaking from personal experience, I presume.

Awteam2021

“The more people who participate in a democracy, the more democratic it becomes “ ~de Tocqueville.

The lack of participation only expands the divide in our communities and in the countries’ governance, harming lesser-off citizens. The 26th Amendment entitles all citizens over the age of 18 the right to vote. That should be the only measurement. At the same time, I would encouraged the citizenry to be better informed.

Being informed, I would have to disagree with your opinion, Blueline. All citizens from whatever walk of life should have a voice, their vote. Not to, would only steal influence of those with less access to power (less voice) in our democracy and their lives. That’s wrong on so many levels.

Don DeArmon

Hard to believe, but I never get enough words to share everything I want to say in a column. This question of whether "casual voters" (my words) should be encouraged invokes strong arguments among activists I know when it is raised. Many believe casual voters would be easier to manipulate or don't "deserve" to vote. I like to think when and if voters participate, it's because they are engaged. When the stakes are high (e.g., 2020 presidential), voters turn out. The challenge at the county and municipal government levels is to remind people of the importance of local government. The irony is that your vote in local elections makes far more difference (which is what most voters want) since fewer people are voting.

kfmd

Don, I think only pissed-off casual voters vote. And yes, I have heard first-hand many city politicians say that casual voters can easily be manipulated and don't deserve to vote. (Including the Mayor, while it wasn't "don't deserve" to vote, it was more like "encouraged to vote because they are not informed") I've never heard an activist say such a thing-in Frederick anyway.

The apathy (lack of interest in educating voters on the importance of voting) and the arrogance (we politicians are so much brighter than the voter, only we know how to solve problems) is also a big part of why people don't engage. No one wants to feel stupid or ignored. They don't want to be talked down to or feel like their input is minimized or disregarded. And this Mayor and most of the Board have mastered the art of disengagement.

As another commenter indicated on another pro MC post—Michael has weirdly separated us all from interacting in meaningful and informative ways. There is so much truth in that statement.

That is why I am writing in Jennifer Dougherty.

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