The Prince George’s County Democratic Central Committee voted on Tuesday night against endorsing a position on ballot “Question D,” which will ask voters in November to add two new at-large seats to the nine-member County Council.
The elected committee is responsible for printing and distributing the sample ballot — a document endorsing candidates and positions favored by the county party — that is delivered to Democratic households across Prince George’s prior to Election Day. Many voters use the sample ballot to guide their choices in the ballot box.
The proposal — which will be the subject of a 7 p.m. town hall discussion Wednesday night at the Bowie Library, hosted by the Prince George’s County Young Democrats — would change the county charter and enlarge the legislative body to 11 seats.
Although council members would still be limited to two terms in office, that limit would apply separately to district seats and at-large seats, so that the same person could serve in two different positions for up to four consecutive terms.
Elected leaders in Prince George’s leaders who are backing the proposal say the county would benefit from having two council members who represent the entire jurisdiction, rather than just one area. They also argue that the county needs more veteran politicians in office to match the level of experience among lawmakers in neighboring jurisdictions.
Neighboring Montgomery County has four at-large council members.
The Prince George’s council’s vote to place the at-large measure on the ballot this summer triggered heated opposition from civic groups and citizen activists who say the change is expensive and unnecessary.
Some opponents have organized a “No on Question D” group and launched a website to sway voters against the ballot question. Progressive Maryland, a large coalition of county political activists, also is campaigning against it.
Supporters, too, have organized. The “ReCharge At-large” ballot question committee officially launched in August and has its own website touting the benefits of adding two members who would have to win countywide majorities.
In 2014, the County Council and County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) tried to extend term limits from two to three through a different ballot question. That campaign failed.
Council members Mary A Lehman (D-Laurel), Obie Patterson (D-Fort Washington), Karen R. Toles (D-Suitland) Andrea C. Harrison (D-Springdale) and Mel Franklin (D-Upper Marlboro) will reach the end of their second terms in 2018.
If the ballot question is approved, any of them could then legally seek two terms as an at-large representative.