Two ballot proposals to end the at-large system of electing the Montgomery County Council were defeated yesterday. Proposals to allow alcohol sales for the first time since Prohibition won in the upper Montgomery towns of Darnestown and Clarksburg, but went down to defeat in Damascus.
Supporters of the current system of electing all seven council members in at-large elections, including the League of Women Voters and the NAACP, waged a strong campaign in the face of a challenge by some civic groups, Republicans and disaffected Democrats who advocated a yes vote for Question D.
That ballot proposition called for five of the council members to run from districts, with two running at-large.
It was defeated by a margin of 53.8 percent to 46.1 percent, according to unofficial final returns.
Ballot Question E, sponsored by Robin Ficker (a Republican who lost a bid for Congress yesterday in the 6th District) would have made all seven council members run from districts. It encountered a landslide of opposition, with 70.9 percent of the voters rejecting it.
According to people on both sides of the districting issue, changing the system of election would fundamentally alter the way the county government works.
Those fighting for districting, including two of the seven incumbent council members, said the at-large council has been the aloof and inbred product of the county's Democractic Party establishment, and has ignored its constituents. Districting, they said, would force council members to pay more attention to what the voters want.
The majority of the council has "crass disrespect for the citizens of this county," council member Rose Crenca, who supports districting, said at a press conference last Friday.
Those who wanted to retain the at-large system, including five of the current council members, said districting would sink the council in a quagmire of parochial interests. The at-large system has allowed the council to look out for the best interests of the county as a whole, they said.
At the same time, they added, the at-large system gives each voter a chance of finding at least one sympathetic ear among seven council members.
Voters in Clarksburg approved alcohol sales in their election district by a 58.8 to 41.1 percent margin, and those in Darnestown backed the proposition by 60.2 percent to 39.7 percent.
But in the Damascus area, where the alcohol issue was most fiercely contested, the proposal to allow liquor sales was defeated 60.2 percent to 39.7 percent.
Roscoe Buxton, who headed the effort to keep all three areas dry, said he had not been able to work up much enthusiasm in Clarksburg or Darnestown.
"I talked to several people in Damascus who use alcohol," he said, "and they were going to vote against it. One fellow said that when they put alcohol in Damascus they'd better start building a prison here, too."
Two judges appointed last year to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals -- Rosalyn B. Bell and James S. Getty -- ran unopposed for 10-year terms. Also unopposed was Montgomery County Circuit Judge L. Leonard Ruben, running for a 15-year term.