Fenwick charter change approves by legislators

The General Assembly, as part of the slew of business conducted at the end of 2008 legislative session, has enacted House Bill 402, which changed the charter of the Town of Fenwick Island. The bill amended Section 6, Elections; Section 7, Nominations; and Section 9, Qualification of Voters, to conform to new state law on elections and clarify certain provisions.

The Section 6 amendment changes the qualification for nominees in town elections from being an eligible voter and ensures that nominees must meet requirements to be a candidate, which are partly determined by state law, as well as the town’s own rules.

Candidate qualifications require that nominees be U.S. citizens who will be 21 or older on the date of the election and a qualified voter in the town for at least a year prior to the election. They must be either a resident of the town or a property owner therein. They must also not have a felony conviction on their record.

With the changes, in Section 7, the charter now specifies that the town will use voting machines for its elections, in accordance with state law.

Section 7 has also been amended by striking a list of reasons why a qualified voter may cast an absentee ballot and simplifying it to read that “the town may, by ordinance, provide for any qualified voter to cast and absentee ballot if such person is unable to appear to cast his, her or its ballot.”

In Section 9, Qualifications of Voters, there are significant changes, largely owing to changes in the state’s municipal election law, as enacted mid-2006. Like its fellow coastal towns, Fenwick Island permits non-resident property owners to vote — an extension of voting privilege that required the state to amend its initial redraft of the state election law to permit towns with such special rules to keep them in place.

The town’s voter qualifications permit U.S. citizens who are residents of the town as of March 1 of the year of the election and who are 18 or older on the date of the election to have a single vote.

Non-resident property owners as of March 1 in that election year, whether a person or legal entity, such as a corporation, trust or partnership, also get one vote, so long as they are registered to vote with the town. The charter also now specifies that the town can use an ordinance to establish a procedure for voter registration.

The new provisions for voting also specify that each voter is entitled to just one vote, whether they qualify as a resident, an owner of one or more properties in the town, or both.

Legal entities that are entitled to vote must cast their vote by a duly executed and notarized power of attorney from the legal entity, granting the authority to cast its vote to its designated attorney-in-fact. That power of attorney must be given to the election officials, who will file it with the town, and the person casting their vote on behalf of that legal entity must also be 18 or older and a U.S. citizen.