Redistricting Reform in Maryland: Gerry Be Gone!

“Maryland is considered one of the more blatantly gerrymandered states. A federal judge wrote that the 3rd District, held by Democratic Rep. John Sarbanes, was ‘reminiscent of a broken-winged pterodactyl, lying prostrate across the center of the state.’ ”  Baltimore Sun, July 16, 2017

“Gerrymandering, in a word, is why American democracy is broken.”  The Washington Post, Feb 10, 2017

So just what is gerrymandering? How is it practiced in Maryland?  How does it affect you??? The League of Women Voters of the Mid-Shore is hosting a series of public information sessions on Redistricting Reform in Maryland to answer these questions and to learn more the issues, current proposals for reform from the Governor’s commission, and what the Tame The Gerrymander coalition is doing to push for reform.  This is part of a continuing series on Making Democracy Work.  Learn how you, too, can make a difference!

Join the discussion on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017 from 11-12:30 pm in Cambridge and Saturday, Dec. 9 from 11-12:30 pm in Easton; each session will be held in the community meeting room at the main library (303 Gay St in Cambridge and 100 W. Dover St in Easton).  Light refreshments will be served.

For more information, contact lwvms.md@gmail.com or call 443-646-3338.

Public Information Sessions on Maryland Primary Election System

The electoral landscape is changing in Maryland as voters registering as unaffiliated with a political party are on the rise.  And yet, those voters are locked out of voting in our state-funded primaries unless the principle political parties allow them to vote on their party’s ballot, an event that has happened only once, in 2000.  State law determines how nominations for elective office are conducted, so maybe it’s time for Marylanders to review their options and decide if their voting systems need to evolve with the times.

The public is invited to a series of public information sessions in Cambridge and Easton on the Maryland primary election system.  Hosted by the League of Women Voters of the Mid-Shore (LWVMS), these sessions are meant to raise public awareness of the issues involved and provide the opportunity to discuss their implications.  There will be two sessions: Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017 from 6-7:30 pm in Cambridge and Saturday, Nov. 18 from 1-2:30 pm in Easton, each session held in the community meeting room at the main library (303 Gay St in Cambridge and 100 W. Dover St in Easton).  Light refreshments will be served.

“One of the greatest things about American democracy is that we not only get to choose our leaders, we can propose changes to ensure that the selection process is fair” says Ralph Watkins, Vice President for Voters Service, League of Women Voters, Maryland and a resource person for these sessions. Democracy is a participatory process; help decide if the Maryland primary system is ripe for change and give your input on how best to change it.  For more information about these sessions or about the LWVMS, contact the League at 443-883-5412 or at Jeanne_A_Halpin@lwvmd.org.

A Public Information Program on Running for Local Office

Have you ever considered getting more involved in local government?  Maybe even considered running for local office?  Whether or not you have, right now is the time to prepare for next year’s elections.  In November 2018 Talbot citizens will vote for a whole slew of candidates to serve at the state and federal level. They will also vote to elect a wide range of Talbot County officials, ranging from County Council members, law and judiciary offices, political party committee members, to members of the Board of Education. That’s a lot of opportunity to get involved in local government!  To give locals a chance to think about the possibility of running for office in Talbot County, the League of Women Voters of the Mid-Shore (LWVMS) will host a public information program on Running for Local Office on Nov. 7, 2017 from 7-8:30pm in Easton.

The program, designed to encourage local citizens to consider running for local office, offers a panel of guests who have run for and served in local government.  Peter Carroll, former County Councilman; John Ford, President of the Easton Town Council; and Hilary Spence, former County Councilwoman will share their personal experiences and insights gained from their run for and time in office.  They will be joined by Jeri Cook, Director of the Talbot County Election Board, who will provide information on becoming a candidate for office.  There will be time for a question and answer period afterward.  Presented by  the Talbot County members of the LWVMS, “Running for Local Office” will take place in the large conference room at the Eastern Shore Conservation Center, 114 S. Washington St in Easton.  Light refreshments will be served.

The League hopes that listeners will be inspired  to have a new vision of how they may participate in local government, and a better understanding of the process of running for office.  For more information about the program or about the LWVMS, contact the League at 443-883-5412 or at Jeanne_A_Halpin@lwvmd.org.

League of Women Voters Mid-Shore Meeting on January 18

On Wednesday, January 18, the League of Women Voters of the Mid-Shore (LWVMS) (Caroline, Talbot, and Dorchester Counties) is meeting at Talbot County Free Library in Easton, from 11:30-1:30, to discuss the future of the organization in 2017-18. Mary Whitehead, Margaret Young, Linda Makosky and Mary-Beth Goll will lead a round table discussion. In addition LWVMS Convener, Pat Comella and LWV of Maryland state officers will participate. Lunch will be provided and all interested persons are invited.

In a country with sharp divisions of political opinions, the League of Women Voters, a non-partisan group —exists to serve everyone. While probably best known for its Voters Guide and candidate forums, LWV Mid-Shore—open to men, too—is a grass roots organization with many interests at local, state and national levels. Its mission statement “…encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues and influences public policy through education and advocacy”.

Where can someone concerned about important issues such as land use, education, mental health, rental housing, and water quality, study, discuss, and advocate? Answer: at a LWV Mid-Shore meeting. LWVMS has studied and taken action for these and other concerns. For questions or to reserve a place at the Jan. 18 meeting, please contact Margaret Young at 410-745-5396.

1st District Election Forum at Chesapeake College April 10

The six candidates from both major parties seeking Maryland’s 1st District Congressional seat will take part in a forum at Chesapeake College in Wye Mills, at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 10.

The free and nonpartisan event will be conducted by Leagues of Women Voters serving Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot counties in advance of the primary election taking place April 14-21 and 26.  The public may submit written questions to the candidates as part of the program.

The 1st Congressional District includes all of Maryland’s Eastern Shore and parts of several other counties. It is represented by Andy Harris, a resident of Harford County. Representative Harris, now completing his third term, is being challenged by Republican opponents  Michael Smigiel , a former state delegate and Cecil resident; Sean Jackson, a commander of the State Police; and Jonathan Goff, a Harford resident who also challenged Harris in 2014.

Democrats vying for that party’s Congressional nomination are Jim Ireton and Joe Werner. Ireton, of Wicomico, is an educator who has served as a councilman and mayor of Salisbury. Werner is a lawyer and resident of Harford.

All candidates will respond within time limits to League questions given them in advance, then entertain queries from the audience.

 Primaries in Maryland are closed, which means that persons registered in a party will be selecting candidates only from among those in their party.

Signs will direct voters to the Cadbury Auditorium, in the Kent/Humanities building on the Chesapeake campus. 

 

For more information on the primary, which also will select nominees for president and a Maryland senator, see the League-sponsored website, vote411.org. Site data includes polling locations and early voting options based on the user’s address.

Election Forum Announced for Easton Town Council Race April 30

Part of the League of Women Voters’ mission is to provide information to citizens regarding candidates running for government offices. In that spirit, the LEAGUE of Women Voters of the Mid-Shore will hold a forum on Thursday, April 30 at 6:00 pm at the Talbot County Free Library, Easton. All candidates for Mayor and Council Wards 1 and 3 are expected to participate.

The Easton election will be held on Tuesday, May 5 between 7:00 am and 8:00 pm at the Easton Fire House. There are two candidates running for the Office of Mayor: incumbent Robert C. Willey and former council member Mooneyene Jackson Amis.

There are two candidates for Ward 1 hoping to fill the seat that will be vacated by Kelley Malone. They are Phillip Carey Foster and Alan Silverstein.

The two candidates running for the Ward III, opening when Len Wendowski steps down, are Ron Engle and Duane Hilghman.

Town Council President John Ford, Ward II Council Member Pete Lescher and Ward IV Council Member Megan Cook are scheduled to remain on the Council until 2017.

All will be present to meet citizens, introduce themselves, and answer questions. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend.

League of Women Voters Annouces 2015 Priorities

The non-partisan League of Women Voters of Maryland has announced its advocacy priorities for the 2015 Legislative Session.

The volunteers of the League will hoist the banner of redistricting reform in their Tame the Gerrymander campaign and will work for a Livable Future for Maryland in a comprehensive set of goals for a better environment for our children.

The League seeks a fair and open redistricting system in Maryland rather than a system in the hands of establishment politicians.

Clean water, clean air, and clean renewable energy will be a focus of the environment priority. The League will work to get legislation to raise the renewable portfolio standard to 40 per cent clean renewable energy by 2025.

Climate change mitigation will be advocated through strengthening and readopting the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act and implementing policies to address rising waters.

The League continues to work for many measures for a better Maryland including improved voter access through Election Day registration; campaign finance reform; adequate public school funding; free pre-kindergarten education for all; public transportation and related infrastructure.

The League’s priorities are proposed at the local level by the thirteen county Leagues and put together by the state League. The issues chosen are supported by the positions of the League established by study, discussion and consensus.

The League’s advocacy program is financed by its 501c4 member organization and carried out by its volunteers.

MD State Senate District 37 Candidate Forum Scheduled

The League of Women Voters of the Mid-Shore (LWVMS) will host a forum for the candidates for Maryland State Senate, District 37, on Wednesday, October 29 at the Friends Meeting House, 6:30-8:30 p.m. The Moderator is Rob Rommel. The Friends Meeting House is located at 405 So. Washington St., Easton. Please contact the LWVMS at 410/822-7238 with any questions.

Participating will be the candidates seeking the Maryland 37 Senate seat: Christopher Robinson (Dem) and Adelaide Eckardt (Rep). Write-in candidate Taren James Nance has been invited to participate. Candidates will respond to audience questions following introductory statements by each candidate.

The League requests that there be no electioneering, campaign literature or paraphernalia inside the building, except in designated areas. Candidates should place signs outside the building and to remove them at the end of the forum.

The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy. Membership in the League is open to all citizens of voting age.

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Candidate Forums Upcoming for MD Legislature, QAC Commissioners, US Congress

During the week of October 13, The League of Women Voters will be holding candidate forums for the Maryland General Assembly (District 36), for the Queen Anne’s County Board of County Commissioners, and for the United States House of Representatives from Maryland’s First Congressional District. These forums provide voters the opportunity to see, hear, and question candidates. All candidate forums are free and open to the public.

The candidate forum for the Maryland General Assembly from District 36 will take place on Tuesday, October 14 at the Queen Anne’s County Board of Education Building, 202 Chesterfield Av. in Centreville. It will be held jointly by the Queen Anne’s County, the Kent County, and the MidShore Leagues of Women Voters. The two candidates for the Maryland State Senate, Benjamin Tilghman (D) and incumbent Steven Hershey (R), will introduce themselves and answer audience questions from 6:30 until 7:30 pm.

At 7:30, candidates for the House of Delegates will present themselves and answer audience questions. All voters choose three delegates to the House of Delegates, and three of the four counties making up the 36th District (Queen Anne’s, Caroline, Kent and Cecil) must be represented. Participants in the House of Delegates forum will be the two opposing candidates from Queen Anne’s County, Irving Pinder (D) and Steve Arentz (R), and the two opposing candidates from Caroline County, Robert Thornton, Jr. (D) and Jeff Ghrist (R). As a result of the Primary, no candidate for the 36th District from Cecil County will be on the ballot. The Republican candidate from Kent County who is on the ballot, Jay Jacobs, has no opposition and will not participate in the forum. League rules do not allow candidates without opposition to take part in forums.

On Thursday, October 16 at 7 pm, the Queen Anne’s County League of Women Voters will hold a forum for the QAC Board of County Commissioners. Participating will be the two candidates for the At-large seat, Suzanne Hogan (D) and Jim Moran (R), and the two candidates from District 2, Fred McNeil (D) and Steve Wilson (R). The four participating candidates will introduce themselves, answer audience questions, and have a brief time for an individual wrap-up. This forum will be held at the Queen Anne’s County Board of Education, 202 Chesterfield Ave., in Centreville.

The prevailing Commissioner candidate in the Primary for District 3, Robert Buckey (R), and write-in candidate Philip Dumenil (R) were invited to participate in this forum. Mr. Buckey declined the League’s invitations to attend, and although Mr. Dumenil accepted, the rules of the League of Women Voters, as noted above, do not allow just one candidate for an office take part in debates or forums without an opponent present, since an unopposed appearance by a candidate could be construed as a campaign event for that candidate. Consistent with this League rule, the Commissioner candidates for District 1, Paul Comfort (R), and District 4, Mark Anderson (R), who have no opposition, were not invited to participate in the forum.

The two candidates for the United States House of Representatives will appear at a forum on Sunday, October 19, hosted by the Queen Anne’s County, the Kent County, and the MidShore Leagues of Women Voters at the Cadby Theater at Chesapeake College, 1000 College Circle, in Wye Mills. The forum will begin at 4 pm. Participating will be Bill Tilghman (D) and incumbent Andy Harris (R). The candidates will introduce themselves, answer questions from the Leagues and then from the audience. They will then have a brief time for a wrap-up.

No electioneering will be permitted inside the buildings where the forums are held; no campaign paraphernalia, including buttons, tee shirts, signs and literature, will be allowed inside. Signs may be posted outside the buildings.

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization committed to encouraging the active and informed participation of citizens in government. Membership is open to citizens age 18 or over, men as well as women.

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Vote411 Candidate Database Now Available

Voters throughout Maryland now have access to information on all candidates in the June 2014 Primary Election through an online service, VOTE411.org, sponsored by the League of Women Voters. The system went live earlier this month and voters may now enter their home address to access information on the candidates who will appear on their ballot, specifically, candidates’ answers to a series of questions posed by the local Leagues of Women Voters. Those voters wishing additional information about the candidates will find that VOTE411 includes links to websites, Facebook pages and campaign e-mail addresses when those were provided by the candidates. VOTE411 also includes an option for voters to mark the candidates whose responses they prefer and, at the end of the process, print a list of their selections to take to their polling place.

This web-based service is similar to the print Voters Guide that is published by the League in many counties throughout Maryland. VOTE411.org, however, covers all counties in the state including those which do not have a local League. The Voters Guide and VOTE411.org differ from most other organizations’ guides because the League does not endorse candidates, but publishes responses exactly as entered by the candidates. Although questions were sent to candidates by e-mail, many volunteer hours were required to create the online database, entering descriptions of each office on the ballot, crafting questions for the candidates, and following up with them to ensure that they have received the questions and encouraging them to respond.

Many local Leagues will be printing Voters’ Guides for distribution through their respective counties and will post PDF versions on their websites. Voters may take these materials into the polling place to assist them in casting their ballot.

The print Voters’ Guide will appear as a supplement to local newspapers in early June.

The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy. Membership in the League is open to all citizens of voting age.

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