Ocean City Votes To Keep Separate Election Ballot

OCEAN CITY – With a change of heart, Ocean City’s municipal election will remain on a separate ballot from the state and national election to keep the tradition alive.

The question to consolidate Ocean City’s individual municipal Election Day in October with National Election Day in November had been brought up throughout the town’s history.

City Solicitor Guy Ayres recalled in July 2012 the Mayor and City Council voted to change the municipal election date to the Tuesday after the first Monday in November to coincide with national elections. Originally the municipal election was held in October. The council also voted to conduct municipal elections on a separate ballot using separate machines in a separate area from the national election. The two-ballot process was used in both November 2012 and 2014 and voter turnout was subsequently increased significantly.

Ayres furthered, in May 2013 the council voted to support a letter from Mayor Rick Meehan to Maryland State Senator Jim Mathias requesting legislation authorizing the merger of municipal elections with the Maryland State Board of Elections. The request was issued as Senate Bill 438 and was approved by then-Gov. Martin O’Malley in May 2014.

Ayres then corresponded with the State Board of Elections in July 2014 presenting a formal request of the Mayor and Council for the Worcester County Board of Elections to commence conducting elections in Ocean City as of November 2016. However, several charter amendments for filing deadline and procedures would be necessary to merge Ocean City’s ballot with the state’s General Election ballot.

According to Ayres, in 2014 the election cost about $3,900 for labor, machine setup and maintenance, advertising, meals for Board of Election members and police presence for the day. Costs to transition to the state election system would include a one-time cost of $10,000 to $15,000 to pay fees associated with programming the county system to incorporate the municipal election. However, the town would recognize cost savings over time due to the merger.

Mayor Rick Meehan reminded the council the vote to change the date was to increase voter turnout, which turned out to be successful but since then there has been subsequent discussion among council if two ballots is necessary considering the difficulties that will arise in changing Ocean City’s charter.

“I remember vividly when we voted to change it to the first Tuesday in November. At that time, we thought it would be easier to have the one ballot but after experiencing two elections, as well as the tradition of the way our election is held in reading out the results … it feels so real. I am glad we have thought about this again,” said Council Secretary Mary Knight, making a motion to keep the two ballots separate.

The City Council voted unanimously to continue holding Ocean City’s municipal election on the first Tuesday of November alongside with national elections but keep its ballot separate.