Article 22 Elections & Petitions
Section 22.1: Purpose of article.
The intention of this article is that the conduct of elections should inspire public confidence and trust by assuring that:
(1) all persons served by the election system are treated fairly and equitably;
(2) all qualified persons may register and vote and that those who are not qualified do not vote;
(3) those who administer elections are well-trained, that they serve both those who vote and those who seek votes, and that they put the public interest ahead of partisan interests;
(4) full information on elections is provided to the public;
(5) citizen convenience is emphasized in all aspects of the election process;
(6) security and integrity are maintained in the casting of ballots, canvass of votes, and reporting of election results;
(7) the prevention of fraud and corruption is diligently pursued; and
(8) any offenses that occur are prosecuted.
Section 22.2: Definitions.
(a) In general. In this ordinance the following words have the meanings indicated.
(b) Affidavit. "Affidavit" means a statement executed under penalty of perjury.
(c) Chief election official. "Chief election official" means:
(1) the President of the Town Council or his designee in the case of a charter amendment referendum;
(2) the Chairman of the Board of Elections in the case of all other election matters.
(d) Circulator. "Circulator" means an individual who attests to one or more signatures affixed to a petition.
(e) Election authority. "Election authority" means: (1) the Legislative Body of Forest Heights for Charter Resolution petition
(2) The Forest Heights Board of Elections for normal and special elections
(f) Legal authority. "Legal authority" means: (1) the Town Attorney; or (2) if the Town Attorney has a conflict of interest or is otherwise unable to render an opinion , then some other attorney admitted to the bar in the state of Maryland.
(h) Page. "Page" means a piece of paper comprising a part of a petition.
(i) Petition. "Petition" means all of the associated pages necessary to fulfill the requirements of a process established by the law by which individuals affix their signatures as evidence of support for: (1) placing the name of an individual or the names of individuals on the ballot at any election, or
(2) placing a question on the ballot at any election
(j) Sponsor. "Sponsor" means the person or organization who coordinates the collection of signatures for a petition and who, if the petition is filed, is named on the information page as required by this ordinance.
Section 22.3: Application of Ordinance.
(a) In general. Except as provided in subsection (b) of this section, this ordinance applies to any petition authorized by law to place the name of an individual or a question on the ballot.
(b) Ordinance construed consistent with Maryland Constitution or Article 23A of the Annotated Code of Maryland. This ordinance shall not be interpreted to conflict with any provision relating to petitions specified in the Maryland Constitution or Article 23A of the Annotated Code of Maryland.
Section 22.4: Adoption of Resolutions and Guidelines.
(1) The Town Council may adopt Resolutions, consistent with this ordinance, to carry out the provisions of this ordinance.
(2) The Resolutions may:
(i) prescribe the form and content of petitions;
(ii) specify procedures for the circulation of petitions for signatures;
(iii) specify procedures for the verification and counting of signatures; and
(iv) provide any other procedural or technical requirements that the Town Council considers appropriate.
(b) Guidelines, instructions, and forms.
(1) The Town Council shall: (i) prepare guidelines and instructions relating to the petition process; and
(ii) design and arrange to have printed sample forms conforming to this ordinance for each purpose for which a petition is authorized by law.
(2) The guidelines, instructions, and forms shall be provided to the public, on request, without charge.
(3) In the absence of guidelines, instructions and forms provided by the Town, the Chief Election Official shall accept any reasonable form submitted by petitioners.
Section 22.5: Determination of sufficiency of petition by chief election official.
(a) In general. The format of the petition prepared by a sponsor shall be submitted to the chief election official not less than 20 days in advance of filing the petition, for a determination of its sufficiency.
(b) The Council President shall determine the sufficiency of a petition related to Charter amendments, and the Chair of the Election Board shall determined sufficiency for all other petitions.
(c) Public Improvements. Petitions against public improvements shall be governed by Section 33-76 of the Forest Heights Town Charter.
(d) Advice of legal authority. In making the determination, the chief election official may seek the advice of the legal authority.
(e) Review by Legislative Body. Prior to submitting the determination to the sponsor of the petition, the chief election official shall submit the determination to the Town Council for final evaluation of the petition format. The Town Council may at that time, by a majority vote, override the election official's determination.
(f) For Charter amendments, the election official's review for sufficiency shall be limited to ensuring that the proposed changes meet the requirements of form for charter amendments imposed by Article 23A of the MD. Ann. Code, and that the amendments will not conflict with other sections of the Charter not affected by amendments, the proposed amendments are consistent with one another, and that a charter conflict will not arise if the voters accept some but not all of the proposed amendments.
(g) For all other election matters, the Chairman of the Board of Elections shall review the petition, and after consultation with the Town Attorney, assure that the change to a Town ordinance required by the petition is not in conflict with the Town Charter or the laws of Maryland. If the petition is to place a name on the ballot for election, the election official shall determine the person's qualifications for the elected office.
Section 22.6: Computing time for performance of act.
(a) In general.
(1) Except as provided in subsection (b) of this section, in computing the time under this article for performing an act, Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays shall be included.
(2) In a computation of time under this article, the day of performing an act and the day of registration or election shall be excluded.
(c) Exception. If a computation of time would require an act to be performed on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, the act shall be performed on the next regular business day following that Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday.
Section 22.7: Requirements for signing petition; information required.
(a) In general. To sign a petition, an individual shall:
(1) sign the individual's name as it appears on the statewide voter registration list or the individual's surname of registration and at least one full given name and the initials of any other names; and
(2) include the following information, printed or typed, in the spaces provided:
(i) the signer's name as it was signed;
(ii) the signer's address;
(iii) the date of signing; and
(iv) other information required by Resolutions adopted by the Town Council.
(b) Validation and counting. [—] The signature of an individual shall be validated and counted if:
(1) the requirements of subsection (a) of this section have been satisfied;
(2) the individual is a registered voter assigned to the Town of Forest Heights
specified on the signature page and, if applicable, in a particular Ward area Of the Town of Forest Heights;
(3) the individual has not previously signed the same petition;
(4) the signature is attested by an affidavit appearing on the page on which the
(5) the date accompanying the signature is not later than the date of the affidavit on the page; and
(6) if applicable, the signature was affixed within the requisite period of time, as specified by law.
(c) Removal of signature.
(1) A signature may be removed:
(i) by the signer upon written application to the election authority with which the petition will be filed if the application is received by the election authority prior to the filing of that signature; or prior to the filing of that signature, by the circulator who attested to thatsignature or by the sponsor of the petition, if it is concluded that the signature does not satisfy the requirements of this ordinance.
(2) A signature removed pursuant to paragraph (1)
(ii) of this subsection may be included in the number of signatures stated on the information page included in the petition.
Section 22.8: Affidavit of circulator of petition; age of circulator.
(a) In general. Each signature page shall contain an affidavit made and executed by the individual in whose presence all of the signatures on that page were affixed and who observed each of those signatures being affixed.
(b) Requirements. The affidavit shall contain the statements, required by Resolution, OR IN THE ABSENCE THEREOF, AS PRESCRIBED IN STATE LAW, designed to assure the validity of the signatures and the fairness of the petition process.
(c) Age of circulator. A circulator must be at least 18 years old and a registered voter in the Town of Forest Heights at the time any of the signatures covered by the affidavit are affixed.
Section 22.9: Procedure for filing petitions.
(a) In general.
(1) Unless otherwise required by the Town Charter of Forest Heights or Article 23A of the Annotated Code of Maryland, a petition shall be filed, in person by or on behalf of the sponsor, at a regularly scheduled Town Meeting.
(2) Resolutions. The Resolutions adopted by the Town Council may provide that the signature pages of a petition required to be filed be delivered by the sponsor, or an individual authorized by the sponsor, to the Board of Elections for verification and counting of signatures.
(b) Acceptance of petition. A petition may not be accepted for filing unless the information page indicates that the petition satisfies any requirements established by law for the time of filing and for the number and Ward distribution of signatures.
(c) Additional signatures. - Subsequent to the filing of a petition under this ordinance, but prior to the deadline for filing the petition, additional signatures may be added to the petition by filing an amended information page and additional signature pages conforming to the requirements of this ordinance.
Section 22.10: Determinations of chief election official after filing of petition; declaration of deficiency of petition.
(a) Review by chief election official. Promptly upon the filing of a petition, the chief election official of the election authority shall review the petition.
(b) Determinations. Unless a determination of deficiency is made under subsection
(c) of this section, the chief election official shall:
(1) make a determination that the petition, as to matters other than the validity of signatures, is sufficient; or
(2) defer a determination of sufficiency pending further review, but not more than 30 days after receipt of the petitions.
(c) Declaration of deficiency. The chief election official shall declare that the petition is deficient if the chief election official determines that:
(1) the petition was not timely filed;
(2) after providing the sponsor an opportunity to correct any clerical errors, the information provided by the sponsor indicates that the petition does not satisfy any requirements of law for the number or Ward distribution of signatures;
(3) an examination of unverified signatures indicates that the petition does not satisfy any requirements of law for the number or Ward distribution of signatures;
(4) the requirements relating to the form of the petition have not been satisfied;
(5) based on the advice of the legal authority:
(i) the use of a petition for the subject matter of the petition is not authorized by law; or
(ii) the petition seeks: 1. the enactment of a law that would be unconstitutional or the =election or nomination of an individual to an office for which that individual is not legally qualified to be a candidate; or
2. a result that is otherwise prohibited by law or
(6) the petition has failed to satisfy some other requirement established by law; (7) The petition seeks an enactment or result that would be detrimental to the stability, peace, harmony, and good order of town affairs;
(d) Consistency with advance determination. A determination under this section may not be inconsistent with an advance determination made under Section 22.5.
(e) Notice. Notice of a determination under this section shall be provided in writing and in accordance with this ordinance.
Section 22.11: Procedures for verifying and counting signatures on petition.
(a) In general. Upon the filing of a petition, and unless it has been declared deficient under Subsection 22.10, the Town Council shall proceed to verify the signatures and count the validated signatures contained in the petition.
(b) Town Council to establish process. The Town Council, by Resolution, may establish the process to be followed by all election authorities for verifying and counting signatures on petitions.
(c) Any and all petitions shall require the signatures of 20% of the qualified voters of the Town of Forest Heights as defined in the Forest Heights Town Charter. Petitions bearing less than the requisite 20% shall be deemed invalid, insufficient, or otherwise deficient.
Section 22.12: Certification of Petition.
(a) In general. At the conclusion of the verification and counting processes, the chief election official shall: (1) determine whether the validated signatures contained in the petition are sufficient to satisfy all requirements established by law relating to the number and Ward of distribution of signatures; and
(2) if it has not done so previously, determine whether the petition has satisfied all other requirements established by law for that petition and immediately notify the sponsor of that determination, including any specific deficiencies found.
(b) Certification. If the chief election official determines that a petition has satisfied all requirements established by law relating to that petition, the chief election official shall certify that the petition process has been completed and shall[: (1) ]with respect to a petition seeking to place the name of an individual or a question on the ballot, certify that the name or question has qualified to be placed on the ballot; and
(c) Notice. Notice of a determination under this section shall be provided in writing in accordance with this ordinance.
Section 22.13: Judicial review of determinations regarding petition.
(a) In general.
(1) A person aggrieved by a determination made under this ordinance may seek judicial review in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County; (2) The court may grant relief as it considers appropriate to assure the integrity of the electoral process, and
(3) Judicial review shall be expedited by each court that hears the cause to the extent necessary in consideration of the deadlines established by law.
Section 22.14: Schedule of procedures regarding petition.
(a) Request for advance determination. — (1) A request for an advance determination under this ordinance shall be submitted at least 20 days, but not more than 2 years and 1 month, prior to filing or prior to the deadline for the filing of the petition. In the case of petitions for referendum on ordinances passed by the legislative body, the format of the petition shall be submitted to the chief election official not less than twenty days in advance of filing the petition.
(2) Within 10 business days of receiving the request for an advance determination, the election authority shall make the determination.
(b) Notice. Within 2 business days after an advance determination under of this ordinance, or a determination of deficiency under this ordinance, the chief election official of the election authority shall notify the sponsor of the determination.
(c) Verification and counting. The verification and counting of validated signatures on a petition shall be completed within 35 days after the filing of the petition.
(d) Certification. Within 3 business days of the completion of the verification and counting processes, or, if judicial review is pending, within 3 business days after a final judicial decision, the appropriate election official shall make the certifications required by this ordinance.
(e) Judicial review.
(1) Except as provided in paragraph (2) of this subsection, any judicial review of a determination, as provided in this ordinance, shall be sought by the 10th day following the determination to which it relates.
(2) If the petition seeks to place the name of an individual or a question on the ballot at any election, judicial review shall be sought by the day specified in paragraph (1) of this subsection or the 45th day preceding that election, whichever day is earlier.
Section 22.15: Implementation.
The Chief election official shall report to the Council at its next legislative session, but within the time requirements of State law if the petition involves an amendment to the Town Charter, as to his findings regarding the sufficiency of a petition. If the petition is found sufficient, the Council shall pass the necessary enabling legislation at that session to place the question(s) on the ballot or enact the question by resolution or ordinance.
Section 22.16: Board of Election Procedures.
(a) Within 10 days of the appointment of a Board of Elections, the Board shall meet and choose a chair person from amongst themselves. The Town Clerk is to be notified of such selection within 48 hours of the selection.
(b) If at any time during his or term, a member of the Board of Elections believes he or she can no longer perform the duties of that office, he or she is obligated to inform the Town Clerk of that fact. The Town Clerk shall then inform the Mayor so that a replacement can be selected and submitted to the Council for approval.
(c) At least ten days prior to any election or referendum, the Election Board is to file a plan for the conduct of the election or referendum with the Town Clerk and the President of the Council.
(d) Verification of voter registration:
(1) The Town Clerk shall assist the Board of Elections in obtaining lists of registered voters from the Prince George's County Board of Elections.
(2) For regularly scheduled elections the Board of Elections shall obtain a list of registered voters From the Prince George's County Board of Elections as of the day that nominations must be filed for that election. Any voter not appearing on that list must obtain a temporary certificate of registration from the Prince George's County Board of Elections indicating residence and Ward in the Town of Forest Heights in order to be eligible to vote in the election.
(3) For verification of petitions, the Board of Elections shall obtain a list of registered voters from the Prince George's County Board of Elections as of the day the petitions were submitted to the Town Council. This list shall be used by the chief election official in determining the validity of the signatures on the petition.
(e) The Board of Elections shall appear at the election site at least 30 minutes prior to when any election or referendum is scheduled to begin.
(f) The qualification of any voter appearing to take part in an election must be verified by at least two members of the Election Board. The board shall require an identification document containing the voters photograph for identification purposes, or the written sworn testimony of two Forest Heights residents who are determined to be registered voters according to these procedures, and are present with the voter, attesting to the identity of the voter.
(g) When the polls are closed, the Election Board shall begin the process of counting the votes. All three election board members are to individually count ballots or inspect the product of voting machines and prepare a total count of votes for each person or question on the ballot. Each member of the Board of Elections shall place his or her initials on each piece of paper inspected.
(h) The public are to be allowed to observe the counting of the ballots, but may not handle the election documents, or in any way interfere with the counting of the ballots. The Board of Elections may set reasonable rules as to room arrangement and the number of people present during this phase of the election so it does not interfere with the counting of ballots.
(i) After counting all the ballots the members of the Board of Elections shall compare their totals. If the totals are different, but the difference does not change the outcome of the election, the Board of Elections shall prepare a memorandum so stating for the record. If the difference in the count would affect the outcome of the election, the members of the Board of Elections shall recount the ballots for each candidate and question, and again compare their totals. If the totals again are not the same, the members of the Board of Elections shall vote on which are the correct totals, with at least two members having to agree on the outcome. If at least two members cannot agree on the outcome of the election, that part of the election shall be declared invalid, and the Town Council shall schedule another election.
(j) When the members of the Board of Elections have agreed on the outcome of the election they shall declare the winner and report the results to the Town Clerk, including the total number of voters participating by Ward, and votes cast each candidate, including write-in votes and number absentee ballots.
(k) All ballots and other material used in an election are public documents in the custody of the Board of Elections. Release of these materials are governed by the Town Charter, the Maryland Public Information Act and other applicable laws of the State of Maryland.
(l) A list of voters participating in the election is to be transmitted to the Prince George's County Elections Board for entry into their data base on voter activity.
(m) Election material shall be disposed of in accordance with Section 33-37 of the Town Charter and the Forest Heights Document Retention Schedule on file with the Maryland State Archivist as required by state law.