Council Corner – State Bill May Change Village Election Procedures

I am very excited that my four-year-old son is interested in learning to play board games, which is one of my favorite hobbies. Board gaming teaches him to take turns, follow rules, and play fairly. That is until he gets frustrated with the way the game is unfolding and then demands that we “play for silly.” He then moves the pieces whenever and wherever he chooses so that he inevitably wins the game.

While my son’s games may often devolve into silly play, local elections are a serious matter. This is why I am especially concerned with Maryland House Bill 1024, which was introduced into the General Assembly by the Howard County Delegation. The text of this bill states: “If a residential lot within the village community association is owned by more than one person, each owner of the lot is entitled to one vote in the election.” If a lot has several people on the deed, each of them would be also entitled to a full vote regardless of whether they even live in the village. HB 1024 significantly alters how our elections would be conducted, as currently in River Hill, only residents of the Village aged 18 or over may cast a vote. This bill has the potential to give outside interests an outsized influence in who represents us on the Village Board and Columbia Council.

Proponents of HB 1024 claim that this bill will improve the democratization of Columbia Village Elections, by increasing the number of eligible voters. However, this bill appears to violate the democratic principle of “one person, one vote” since a person with a partial ownership interest in multiple properties in the Village may be entitled to cast multiple votes. Furthermore, in a healthy democratic process there should be a dialogue with the community to discuss new legislation. Yet as of this writing, none of the bill’s sponsors have engaged the River Hill Board to discuss the implications of this bill.

If increased democratization in HOA elections is so important, why does this bill only apply to Columbia Villages but not to any of the other homeowners associations in the county or state? It seems odd that democracy should only be enjoyed by the Columbia Villages but not any of the other HOAs. Each Village’s election rules are written into their charter and have been applied through numerous election cycles. Why is our State Delegation now seeking to override the village charters?

As a reminder, Village Elections are coming up on April 22. I encourage everyone to participate and vote on election day.

Eric Greenberg is the River Hill Representative to
Columbia Council and the CA Board of Directors.

Disclaimer: This column reflects the views of Eric Greenberg only and not those of the CA Board or the River Hill Board of Directors.