By Tommi Makila
At a rather contentious and chaotic meeting on September 20, 2016, the Prince George’s County Democratic Central Committee voted against making endorsements in the general election races for the Board of Education (BOE).
At the previous Central Committee meeting—held on July 19, 2016—the school board endorsements had been on the agenda. The Committee had voted on the Democratic “sample ballot” as a whole, including candidates for congressional and BOE races as well as ballot questions. At the July meeting, sixteen Central Committee members voted for the sample ballot and eleven voted against it. Apparently Central Committee members had left the July meeting thinking that the sample ballot, including the BOE endorsements, had been approved. However, someone realized only after the meeting that the sample ballot approval required a two-thirds majority. Thus, it was determined that the vote on the sample ballot had failed.
At the September 20 meeting of the Central Committee, a motion was made to reconsider the July 19 vote on the sample ballot. The motion to reconsider failed. After this, two new motions related to sample ballots were made, but the Committee Chair ruled the motions out of order.
Even though the sample ballot issue appeared to be dead at the September 20 meeting, discussion around the issue continued as some Central Committee members sought clarification on what had actually been decided. At this point, the Committee Chair and the Committee’s legal counsel indicated that, according to the rules of the Committee, only the ballot questions required a two-thirds majority for approval. Thus, their interpretation was that at the July meeting only the endorsements on the ballot questions had failed and all other sample ballot endorsements were approved. This interpretation received strong pushback from several Central Committee members, because the Committee had specifically decided to vote on the ballot as a whole, not separately for the candidate endorsements and ballot questions.
At this point, another motion was made on the sample ballot. This time it was moved that the ballot include the Democratic presidential, US Senate and congressional candidates, Democratic judges, and state ballot Question 1 on how vacancies for Attorney General and Comptroller are filled. The sample ballot will not include endorsements in the BOE races or county ballot questions, including the contentious Question D on two new at-large County Council seats. The motion specified that the sample ballot will be distributed electronically, as the Committee does not have enough funds for a county-wide hard copy mailing. The motion on this electronic sample ballot passed without dissension.
It should be noted that this Central Committee decision only applies to the Democratic Party sample ballot produced by the Central Committee. Sample ballots advertisements produced by individual campaigns or candidate slates can still include endorsements in the BOE races or county ballot questions.