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Voters Approve All Three County Ballot Measures

County Council redistricting process will change in 2020

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Montgomery County voters overwhelmingly passed all three county charter amendments that were on the ballot in Tuesday’s election, with the most significant change being that the process for redrawing County Council district lines will change in 2020, when the next census is taken.

The redistricting charter amendment, called Question A, alters the selection process for determining members of a committee that redraws the lines of the five council district seats. Currently a nine-member committee is in charge of redistricting and includes four members from both the county’s Democratic and Republican central committees. The council chooses the ninth member.

Under the new rules, the redistricting committee will be expanded to 11 members, and any eligible voter will be able to apply to be on it. The council will then choose the members from the list of applicants, with the stipulation being that there must be at least one, but no more than four members each who are a Democrat, Republican or member of another party that received at least 15 percent of the total vote for all council candidates in the last election. Additionally, there must be at least one member representing each of the five council districts. According to the latest vote totals from the Montgomery County Board of Elections, Question A passed 83 percent to 17 percent.

The second charter amendment, Question B, was passed by about 70 percent of those who voted Tuesday and makes it easier to pass a property tax hike that increases the tax rate above the rate of inflation. Currently all nine council members must be present and vote unanimously in favor of this type of property tax increase in order for it to be approved. With the passage of the amendment Tuesday, only all council members who are present would need to approve the property tax hike, meaning that it could pass with an 8-0 vote if a council member is absent. The process for approving these property tax increases last changed 10 years ago, when voters passed a referendum that changed the required number of votes from a seven-vote supermajority to a unanimous vote of all nine council members.

The third amendment, Question C, passed by about 55 percent of those who voted Tuesday and expands the number of non-merit or “confidential” aides council members are allowed to have on their staff. Currently, most government employees operate under the merit system, which provides a structured set of rules and protections that deal with human resources aspects such as hiring, firing, salaries and retirement. Council members are allowed one non-merit employee, but may hire more than one with the passage of the amendment Tuesday.

Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com

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