A proposed change in the Takoma Park city charter, calling for election of City Council members by ward only, will not appear on the ballot until the next general election, in March 1980.
Proponents of the change, who call themselves the Citizens for Election Reform, had urged the council to hold a special election before March. In this way, if the measure passed, the next City Council election would be on the basis of wards, rather than by the current at-large system.
The Citizens for Election Reform had circulated a petition calling for a referendum to decide whether to change the method of election. They needed at least 1,492 signatures, representing 20 percent of the city's registered voters, to put the question on the ballot.
At last Monday's council meeting, Mayor John Roth noted that the group had amassed well over the required number of signatures.
Referring to a report prepared by Corporation Counsel Vince Gingerich, Roth also said the electoral purposes, would violate the constitutional principle of "one man-one vote." There is wide disparity in the populations of the seven wards, which range from 1,250 in Ward 1 to 3,376 in Ward 5.
According to Roth, because of the time required to redraw and then approve the new boundaries, a special election would not be feasible.
The Citzens for Election Reform, who prepared a legal brief in response to Gingerich's, disagreed.
All the residents who spoke during the time allotted for citizens' comments at the meeting advocated a special election. The public participation was marked by frequent laughter, applause and sarcastic exchanges among citizens and council members.
"I don't believe that an election on the basis of the present wards is any more unconstitutional than the present system," said Sam Abbott, of 7308 Birch Ave. "And if you thought redistricting was essential, you could have it done 40 days from tonight, if you had the will."
"I didn't sign the petition, and I don't know if I'd vote for it," said council member David Weisman. "But I think the citizens should have the chance to settle the issue either way as soon as possible."
The resolution was defeated by a vote of 4 to 3.
"I'm disappointed, but not real surprised," said David Prosten, chairman of the Citizens for Election Reform. "We'll campaign for the measure in March and, hopefully, we'll win then."