Town of Upper Marlboro Approves Measures to Expand Voting Opportunities and Increase Resident Participation in the Town's Governing and Election Process
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UPPER MARLBORO, MD (Aug. 12, 2021) – The Town of Upper Marlboro took significant action this week to expand voting opportunities and increase resident participation in the town’s governing and election process. The Board of Commissioners – consisting of Mayor Linda Pennoyer, Janice Duckett, and Sarah Franklin –unanimously passed a series of measures at its regular monthly meeting this past Tuesday night that will increase the number of commissioners sitting on the Board by two and make voting more convenient for the town’s residents.
Specifically, the Board voted Tuesday night to:
- Increase the Town's elected body from three to five members, consisting of four Commissioners and one President/Mayor.
- Expand polling hours by increasing the minimum requirement for polls to be open from four hours to 12 hours; traditionally, the Town held polls open for six hours.
- Move the Town election date from the first week in January to the second Tuesday in November in every odd numbered year.
- Allow the Town to appoint additional members to its Board of Supervisors of Elections if needed.
“Increasing the Town's elected officials was crucial for many reasons,” Mayor Pennoyer said following Tuesday night’s meeting, “including ensuring that we can comply with the State's Open Meetings Act, expanding the voice of the residents by allowing them to select more of their peers to serve on the Commission, and ensuring the continuity of government.”
In 2020, after Town Commissioner Kai Bernal-LeClaire stepped down to take a new job out of state and Commissioner Wanda Leonard suddenly and tragically passed away prior to the special election to fill Le-Claire's spot, the Town was left with only one elected official.
"We did not have a quorum to make decisions for about two months," said Mayor Pennoyer. "We knew at that point having only three Commissioners was not going to work.”
Prior to Tuesday night, the Town had not modified its elections process since 2001. Few municipalities in the state still operate with only three commissioners and adding two new members to the board is especially critical because of recent annexation actions.
With a current population of just under 700 residents, Upper Marlboro is in the midst of an aggressive annexation process, adding new residents and new area by expanding the Town limits. The Town has nearly doubled in size since 2019 with its Phase One annexation and will nearly double again with its upcoming Phase Two and Three annexations. The Town expects to complete those two phases by the end of this calendar year.
Residents had several opportunities to weigh in on the approved changes, Pennoyer pointed out, including two public hearings – one in-person outside the Town Hall and one held virtually just prior to Tuesday night’s board meeting. Town elected officials personally distributed flyers, with information about the changes and dates of the public hearings, door-to-door throughout the Town before the two public hearings were held.
The changes approved Tuesday night will formally take effect Sept. 29, 2021.