City Spent More in 2019 Election, Yet Fewer Residents Went to Poll

In order to increase voter turnouts, the City increased the election budget to $67,171 in the last year’s November election. That was a whopping 139% increase from what the City spent ($28,118) in the 2017 election.

Yet, the voter turnout in the latest election went down by 21% – from 2,648 in 2017 to 2,092 in 2019.

The decrease of voter turnout will be a topic the College Park City Council is expected to discuss at next week’s City Council meeting. City’s advisory board – the Board of Election Supervisor will join the discussion with the Council.

In addition to increasing the City budget for last year’s election, the City also added one polling station, at the UMD’s Stamp Union. Additionally, the City introduced early voting and enabled no-excuse voting. Finally, the City allowed residents to vote at any of the 4 voting centers. Unfortunately, none of these measures appear to help in increasing voter turnout.

It’s hard to tell the cause of the decrease in voter turn out. One theory could be related to the absence of a student candidate, which may have caused a larger drop (36%) in voter participation in the student heavy District 3.

As an option to increase voter turnout, the Council may discuss the option of Vote-by-Mail in the future College Park elections. In the City of Rockville, the voter turnout has nearly doubled after they adopted voter by mail option in the last year’s election. Rockville spent $86,000 to send voting materials to more than 43,000 registered voters, along with four mailers informing residents of the new system and the available options for voting. Rockville, however, spent a lot more on the outreach effort to the residents about this new voting method. This number is expected level out in future years as residents will get used to the way they are expected to vote. In the last election, College Park spent $67,171 on approximately registered 16,723 voters.

In addition to discussing voter turnout, the Council will review and discuss a few other topics about last year’s election. These topics include: Discussion could include: BOES Post-election Report and Recommendations, Review and evaluate Early Voting, including survey results, Review and evaluate the Voting Center concept, Review and evaluate the three poll locations, Recommendation to change the BOES appointment effective date from the current March 1 in an election year, to July 1 in the year prior to the election.

Additionally, the Council will also discuss ways to make it easier for an 18-year-old resident to run as a candidate. Currently, the Charter requires them to be “registered” as a voter for one year. This could be changed to allow other ways to check a candidate’s residency.

On a related election matter, the County’s Election Board has started cleaning up the voter list by removing voters who have moved out or are deceased. In order to expedite this cleanup effort, the fund for additional mailings by the County to registered voters could be increased, and coordinate that mailing with PSAs reminding people to return any and all outdated voter notification cards (VNC) through the mail back to the County.

Over the years, the total spending (by all candidates) in our city elections has increased. It will be helpful to get some data on how these figures have changed over the years? An increased election budget discourages new candidates to join the race. The question is – what can we do on limiting the election budget by candidates?

The Council may also discuss the results of the Advisory Ballot Question on 2- or 4-year terms and how to move forward?

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