Q. How do you pronounce your name?
A.  "Warner" rhymes with "corner."

Q.  No!  You know what I meant.  How do you pronounce "Shani?"
A.  Oh. Right. "Shani" rhymes with "zany" (and "brainy" and "rainy"). One cool thing (among many) about serving on the City Council is that people now pronounce my name correctly more often than not.

Q.  How do I find out which Ward I live in?
A.  The Ward boundaries in Hyattsville are confusing, to say the least. Sometimes people on one side of the block are in one Ward and the people on the other side are in a different one. To search a map of the city to determine your Ward, click here. If you live in Ward 2, you're in my Ward.
Q.  How large is the Council? How long is the term of office? When is the next election?
A.  The Hyattsville City Council is made up of 10 Council Members (one of the largest Councils in Maryland) and a Mayor. The term of office is four years and each of the five Wards has two Council members with staggered terms. Every two years one Council member from each Ward is elected and there is a Mayoral election every four years. The most recent citywide election took place on Tuesday, May 5th, 2015 and the most recent Special Election to fill a vacancy in Ward 5 occurred on September 12, 2015. The next election is scheduled for Tuesday, May 2, 2017 and the next Mayoral election will be on Tuesday, May 7, 2019. Mark your calendars!
Q. What's this I hear about 16 and 17 year olds being allowed to vote in Hyattsville?
A. Yes! In January 2015, the Hyattsville City Council amended the City Charter to expand the right to vote in City Elections to 16 and 17 year old Hyattsville residents. These young voters register to vote through the Maryland State Board of Elections. This is one of the many things that makes Hyattsville a special place to live (NYT article).

Q. That's bananas!
First, that's not a question. Second, it's bananas in the wholly upbeat and positive sense! This was a deliberate, thoughtful move to foster a culture of civic engagement in Hyattsville. In the 2015 election, 25% of the registered voters under age 18 voted. I expect this percentage will go up from there.

Q. What about non-citizen voting?
A. On December 5th, 2016 the Council unanimously approved a Charter amendment to allow all residents of Hyattsville over the age of 16 to vote in city elections, including non-citizens. This goes into effect on January 24, 2017, in time for our next city election on May 2, 2017. I've been encouraged by the widespread support for changing our voter qualifications so that more people can participate in our local political process. I've also been impressed with the courtesy and respect shown by people with different perspectives on the wisdom of this change. Six other cities in Maryland allow non-citizens to vote: Takoma Park, Glen Echo, Burnsville, Garrett Park, Martin's Addition, and Somerset. It's a joy to be part of a genuinely welcoming community.

Q. How do I register to vote?
A. You must register to vote through the Maryland State Board of Elections which will also allow you to vote in State and National elections. The State automatically forwards your registration information to the appropriate County and City offices.

Forms for registering with the Maryland State Board of Elections are available at the City Municipal Building, 4310 Gallatin Street. Forms may be obtained online or you can register directly online here. Note that if you don't have a driver's license or MD non-driver ID card (which may be the case if you're one of our new 16 or 17 year old voters), you will just need the last 4 digits of your social security number to register, but you'll have to register with the paper form and mail it in.
You may also call the Prince George's County Board of Elections at 301-430-8020 to obtain forms.

Q. If I changed my address, do I need to register again?

A. No. Your registration is permanent, as long as you notify the Maryland and/or your current County Board of Elections of your current address. If you'd like to check to see if you're registered to vote and where, you can look up this information in about 10 seconds on the Voter Information Lookup System (here). Please note that the polling location listed on the State's website is for State and County elections only. You will have a different polling location for City Elections. Every election someone I know discovers that they're not registered. Please make sure this isn't you.

Q. What happened in the last election?
A. We had a Special Election on September 12, 2015 to fill a vacancy in Ward 5. It was a spirited seven-way race. Here are the results:

Ward Five
Ruth Ann Frazier - 71 votes
Antoinette C. Grace Mbarga - 1 vote
Fred Rogers - 27 votes
Rommel Sandino - 51 votes
Roman A. Santillan - 5 votes
Patrice Anduha Stamper - 3 votes
Eric Roger Tagne - 4 votes
Q. What were the vote totals for the last citywide election?
A. Here are the results from the May 5, 2015 election:
Candace B. Hollingsworth - 1055 votes
Ward 1
William Jenney - 12 votes   
Talib Karim - 109 votes
LaVonne Leslie - 1 vote
Carl R. Nielsen - 95 votes
Jocelyn I. Nolasco - 13 votes
Winnie Obike - 73 votes
Kevin Ward - 234 votes
Ward 2
David Hiles - 45 votes
Emily Strab - 67 votes
Andrew Turner - withdrew 
Shani N. Warner - 287 votes
Ward 3
Thomas Wright - 111 votes
Ward 4
Paula Perry - 34 votes
Ward 5
Sonia E. Francis - 2 votes
Joseph Solomon - 100 votes
Q. What about the election before that for the other Council members whose terms end in 2017?
A. Here are those results:

Ward 1
William Jenne - 47 votes
Bart Lawrence - 177 votes
Ward 2
Robert Croslin - 281 votes
David Hiles - 128 votes
Ward 3
Patrick Paschall - 103 votes
Ward 4
Ross J. Gateretse - 12 votes
Edouard N. Haba - 96 votes
Ward Five
Pastor Herrera - 15 votes
Joseph A. Solomon - 50 votes (2 year term to fill previous vacancy ended in 2015)
Clayton R. Williams - 77 votes (resigned in June 2015)
Q. Who cares about local elections? Why bother voting at all?
A. Hyattsville residents vote every day for the kind of community they want to live in by looking out for their neighbors and volunteering their time in their community and yet, you know what our usual citywide turnout is for local elections in Hyattsville? It’s fewer than 10-12% of registered voters. Ward 2 residents are generally known for their high level of civic engagement, but only about 20% vote in local elections. Sigh. Elections matter and surprising and unwelcome outcomes can occur when people stay home on Election Day. We've seen recent races decided by razor thin margins, such as our local County Council race in 2014, which came down to six votes. Every vote counts, never more so in a local election!

After last year's 50th anniversary of the voting rights marches and current efforts being made to roll back decades of progress won through national voting rights laws I'd hope we'd all be mindful of the sacrifices made for the right to vote. Most of us know in a vague way that voting is the right thing to do, but, practically speaking, sometimes we wonder why it matters. Historically, at the local level, candidates often run unopposed. What does it matter if anyone shows up at the polls? Well, this could happen. On the other end of the spectrum, we've had an explosion of civic engagement in Hyattsville recently with two elections in 2015 involving seven people vying for the same seat. I know it can be daunting to choose the best among so many options and these races can seem like exercises in game theory with our winner-take-all system, but I have little sympathy for those who complain about the outcome after choosing to give up their power and let other people make these decisions for them.

Many people have spent considerable time and energy thinking about how to get more people engaged in civic life in Hyattsville. For this past citywide election we made the voting process easier than it's ever been before, with mail-in voting and two days of early voting. We've expanded the franchise to nurture habits of civic participation among our younger residents. We have other proposals in the works to encourage more of our residents to get involved in our decision-making. We've had marked successes in engaging our residents in many areas, but our election turnout has not been what I hope to see. Not yet, that is!

People habitually undervalue the importance of local government. They spend years obsessing about the minutiae of Presidential contests, but have no idea who to contact about the issues that immediately impact their quality of life. That's, to put it mildly, messed up. Local government has a direct and immediate impact on our daily lives. It literally shapes the neighborhoods we live in. From my experience, everybody cares when a decision is made that they disagree with. Only, at that point it's too late to do anything but complain. Civic engagement is participatory and ongoing.

High voter turnout is a sign of civic health and that's something many of us aspire to for our community, but, more than that, there are immediate and practical reasons for wanting to increase voter turnout. If for no other reason, you should vote out of self-interest. Hyattsville has asked for a lot from county and statewide elected officials recently, much of it in terms of grant money for initiatives to benefit our residents, and we're going to be asking for even more over the next few years. Our position will be strengthened immensely by showing that Hyattsville residents vote.