Reason won out over tradition at this week’s Mayor and Council meeting when the decision was made to do away with the municipality’s election in October and merge it with the November vote.
In a 4-3 vote, with Doug Cymek, Joe Hall, Mary Knight and Lloyd Martin in support and Brent Ashley, Jim Hall and Margaret Pillas opposed (as well as the non-voting mayor), the council decided it was in the best interests of the town to combine its bi-annual election with the general election. The motivating factor appeared to be to drive up voter turnout and eliminate the electorate’s confusion over when it votes for city representation.
As ridiculous as it seems to us, there are many in Ocean City who apparently are not aware the town has its own election. Current and former council members have told stories about how citizens would approach them after the election, exclaiming how they were going to vote for them when it came time. The citizens, who thought they voted for their council at the same time they vote for their commissioners, delegates and senators in the general election, were shocked when they were told the election had already taken place.
We have heard these same stories, and it has to come to an end. There are also others who simply would not take the time to vote on the third Tuesday of every other year but they would in the first Tuesday of November every time. Turnout figures prove that through recent history.
With this year’s election including the presidential race, Ocean City is guaranteed to have a high voter turnout. In last presidential election, the Ocean City prescient recorded a 50-percent voter turnout. In that same year (2008), turnout in the municipal election was a dismal 24 percent.
Those in favor of keeping the elections separate cite history and tradition and claim this is a rare opportunity to speak face-to-face with voters. We do not see how that will change with this decision. They will just have to share the spotlight with other folks seeking constituent votes.
One unfortunate aspect of it is the nostalgic reading of the voting machines on Ocean City’s election night will be missed. That was a special time with candidates and supporters spread out throughout the convention center hall, awaiting the reading of each voting box to determine the outcome.
With this change, all votes will be registered through the electronic machines, and the tally will be announced later in the evening most likely.
While it’s a shame to see that small-town aspect of the election end, the advantages to merging the elections far outweigh the negatives.
The pathetic trend of voter turnout for municipal elections cannot be allowed to continue, and this consolidated election will go a long way toward making sure more Ocean City citizens’ voices are heard and that their votes are counted.