Updated at 10:59 a.m.: The term limits charter amendment won Tuesday night with 264 of 267 Montgomery County precincts reporting. Question B, as it was called, received 262,512 votes in favor, or about 69 percent, with 118,532 votes against, or about 31 percent. The amendment would limit the county executive and County Council members to three consecutive terms.
With Question B’s passage, County Council President Nancy Floreen and council members Roger Berliner, Marc Elrich and George Leventhal—all Democrats—would be barred from seeking another term on the nine-member council. County Executive Ike Leggett has said he does not plan to run for a fourth term.
The question remains about what would happen to council member Nancy Navarro. If Question B passes, she would not be allowed to seek a third, full term; she won her first term in a 2009 special election.
Question C has 284,896 votes in favor, nearly 79 percent, compared with 77,006 votes against, or about 21 percent. If Question C passes, a council member or county executive would have to serve more than two years of a four-year term for it to count as a full term.
Council member Sidney Katz said he talked with people who thought the county should give term limits a try.
“The people that this affects…many of them were certainly considering not running for County Council again anyhow,” he said.
The term limits measure started as a ballot initiative spearheaded by local activist Robin Ficker, who spearheaded efforts to place a term-limits question on the ballot in 2000 and 2004. Both times, voters rejected the measure, which would have limited elected officials to two consecutive terms.
Ficker collected 17,000 signatures to put the term-limits charter amendment on the ballot. The Montgomery County Board of Elections verified more than 12,500 of the names; 10,000 names were needed to bring the referendum to voters.
Former Rockville City Council member Tom Moore challenged the board’s decision in Montgomery County Circuit Court, questioning the signatures and Ficker’s petition-gathering methods. In September, Circuit Court Judge Robert A. Greenberg ruled against Moore. Moore took the case to the Maryland Court of Appeals, which declined to hear the case in October.
Moore’s “No on B” effort had won the support of the Montgomery County Education Association, and one side of the union’s “Apple Ballot” included information saying why voters should oppose term limits, he said. The county’s Democratic Central Committee also opposed Question B and was planning to distribute a sample ballot noting its support for No on B, Moore said.
Moore said Tuesday night that people who voted for term limits were angry at tax increases and other issues coming out of the council.
“I think the people who voted for term limits don’t realize that that change is not going to bring the policy outcomes they’re hoping for, because studies have shown over and over again that they don’t,” Moore said.
He said he believes term limits make the government incrementally worse. “But it’s not disastrous, and Montgomery County will continue to have a terrific county government and be a great place to live,” he said.
With the passage of both Question B and C, local officials expect the term-limits matter to head to court.
Question A also won with 335,655 votes in favor, or nearly 90 percent, compared with 37,616 votes against, or about 10 percent. The measure would allow the County Council to fill a vacancy in the office of the county executive by special election. An election isn’t required, but the change to the charter would allow an election. Currently, a vacancy would be filled by a majority vote of the council. If members can’t reach a majority, the central committee of the majority party on the council would vote to fill the vacancy.