BREAKING: Fenwick cancels public hearing on election rules

Date Published: 
Aug. 24, 2017

The Fenwick Island Town Council has canceled its Aug. 25 public hearing and the council’s final vote on voter qualifications. In fact, the primary sponsor, Councilwoman Julie Lee, said she has decided to hit “pause” altogether on the proposed charter amendment. She said she may move to rescind the first reading from July.

The goal of the charter amendment was to allow the spouses of trustees to vote in town council elections, a right they lost in 2008, but didn’t realize they had lost until a few years ago.

“After the first reading, my sense was there weren’t the votes for it to pass,” Lee said. “We’ve canceled the public hearing … given the discussion and the concerns that council members still had at the first reading.”

This delay doesn’t mean that Lee or the Ad Hoc Election Committee will abandon the pursuit to correct that situation, Lee said. The town council will decide the path forward.

The announcement was made on Aug. 23.

The amendment would allow two votes per trust (which would once again include a trustee’s spouse). Any property owned by non-residents would be limited to a maximum of four votes by deed holder or trustee.

Those rules do not affect residents, all of whom always have a right to vote, regardless of property ownership. LLCs, such as the gas station, would still get one vote. The “one person/one vote” mantra still holds true for all voters.

But, during legal review, the town solicitor was uncomfortable with the current draft because there are many types of trusts, for individuals and businesses. That made council members hesitate, and some also didn’t like giving more votes to non-residents.

Council members passed the first reading in July—some, reluctantly—and the amendment has not been changed or revisited since then.

“I certainly respect the concerns that other council members have,” said Lee, who also said she felt the amendment was flawed.

“I’m still committed to resolving the voter qualification issue,” Lee said. “We’re still trying to come up with something that allows spouses and trustees to vote, but is comfortable for everyone, concerning the number of people that can vote per property for non-residents.”

The town council will meet at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 25. The public hearing, originally scheduled for 2:45 p.m., has been canceled.