Several Maryland municipalities held local elections Tuesday with candidates seeking seats for mayor, council, commissioner and other offices.
In Rockville in Montgomery County, voters also had a chance to select their preferences on four advisory questions on the ballots.
However, those questions are non-binding and the outcomes “will not result in a change in the law…” unless city council decides to change the laws.
One non-binding question that has received some statewide attention: “Should Rockville allow 16-17-year-olds to vote in city elections?”
According to unofficial results, 8,593 voters chose no and 3,542 chose yes. A third option of “no opinion” garnered 249 votes.
Rockville Councilmember Mark Pierzchala, a candidate for mayor, voted against the voting age measure.
“I just don’t think they’ve got maturity or knowledge at that age,” said Pierzchala, who has served on the council for 12 years.
Pierzchala’s opponent in the mayoral race, Rockville Councilmember Monique Ashton, declined to say whether she supported or didn’t support the measure.
“I have said that as a mayoral candidate, I am going to be someone who listens…I am not going to put my personal opinion on the registered voters,” said Ashton, who has served on the council for four years. “That is something that I have been very clear about all along through this process.”
When asked again whether some voters may want to know her stance on the voting age and other referendum questions, Ashton said, “You need to listen to the voters. Representation is about engaging people, having a discussion. We have a no opinion option. People may want to get more data. It’s all about having conversations.”
So far in Montgomery County, Somerset, Takoma Park and Chevy Chase allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in local elections.
In neighboring Prince George’s County, four municipalities grant those teenagers voting privileges in local elections: Greenbelt, Hyattsville, Mount Rainier and Riverdale.
Maryland has been looked upon as a national leader in the movement, with the most municipalities that allow some teenagers to vote in local elections.
As for the Rockville mayoral race, if unofficial results remain the same when votes are certified Nov. 14, Ashton would become the first person of color to serve as the city’s mayor.
Current mayor Bridget Donnell Newton decided not to seek reelection and endorsed Ashton.
As of 1:40 a.m. Wednesday, Ashton had 7,190 votes to Pierzchala’s 5,006. There were also 51 write-in votes.
Voters also selected six people from 12 who sought to serve on city council. The top six vote-getters on election night were Kate Fulton (8,867), Adam Van Grack (7,997), Izola (Zola) Shaw (7,520), David Myles (6,114), Barry Jackson (5,919) and Marissa Valeri (5,905), according to unofficial results.
Another ballot question asked voters if they want to limit the mayor and councilmembers to three consecutive terms in office. The results show 9,162 chose yes, about 2,761 selected no and 453 chose “no opinion.” Currently, there are no term limits.
Voters also got to vote on two other ballot questions.
Unofficial results show 7,857 voted no on allowing residents who are not U.S. citizens to vote in local elections. About 4,150 voters chose yes and another 277 voters had “no opinion.”
The fourth and final question dealt with whether the council should have “some or all” six councilmembers elected by districts rather than at large. About 6,328 no votes were recorded; 5,021 yes votes; 982 “no opinion” votes.
The current five-member council, which includes the mayor, voted earlier this year to adopt to a resolution to expand the council to seven members to represent the city that covers about 13-square miles.
Resident Rhonda Gordon said she supports term limits for councilmembers and letting residents who aren’t U.S. citizens vote.
As for having 16- and 17-year-olds vote in local elections, Gordon said if they’re allowed to drive, then they have the mental capacity to cast a ballot.
“If they have the willingness and the desire to vote at a younger age, and the motivation to do so, why not?” she said. “I know the driving age for me was 16. There’s some level of rationality at that age, I like to think anyway.”
Rockville has about 67,000 residents and more than 48,000 registered voters, according to the city clerk.
In 2019 it became Maryland’s first municipality to allow vote-by-mail. On Tuesday, dozens of people dropped off their ballots at City Hall.
“[Rockville residents] are very engaged in our elected officials and what our city is about. They’re so involved,” said City Clerk Sara Taylor-Ferrell. “That’s the great democracy of our Rockville voters.”
The first meeting of the new council and mayor will be Nov. 20.