Baltimore County voters may get to decide whether the County Council should expand from seven to nine members. Legislation was filed this week to put the issue on the November ballot.

It is not a given that the council will agree to let voters weigh in on the question.

It will take the support of at least five councilmembers to put the expansion question on the ballot. A majority of councilmembers have said they are either opposed to expansion or are undecided. They’ve questioned the expense and whether it’s necessary since the county’s growth has flattened.

Council Chair Izzy Patoka, who is sponsoring the legislation, said he is optimistic he can get it passed.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

“I think there is a sweet spot that we can find that creates an opportunity for this piece of legislation to move forward,” Patoka said.

He added he is talking to councilmembers individually to try to find that sweet spot.

Through a spokesperson, Republican Councilmember Wade Kach said he does not support the proposal but with some specific changes he may back it. He said negotiations are ongoing and he cannot comment further.

Republican Todd Crandell has opposed the proposal, saying the current council is working fine.

Republican Councilmember David Marks and Democrat Julian Jones are undecided.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

In May, councilmembers cut in half a $1.2 million budget proposal from County Executive Johnny Olszewski to be used to plan for renovations of council offices to make room for two new members.

The bill comes following years of complaints that the council’s size makes it harder for women and people of color to get elected. The council is all male, with only one Black member. Baltimore County is about 30% African American, and people of color make up about half of its population.

“It would be, I think, much better for Baltimore County if we had councilmembers that better reflected the demographics of Baltimore County,” Patoka said.

Caitlin Klimm-Kellner told a work group studying council expansion in January that her candidacy for County Council in 2022 failed because she struggled to raise the money to compete in a district with around 127,000 people.

“I think that if it was a smaller representation, a more localized district, that would not have been as much of a problem,” Klimm-Kellner said.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

If the measure passes both the County Council and the voters, it will take effect with the 2026 election. Before then, council district lines would need to be redrawn.

Under Patoka’s legislation, the county councilmember job would go from part time to full time.

Olszewski does not get a say in the matter, but he supports expanding the County Council.

“I applaud Councilmembers for finally introducing legislation to expand the County Council—helping ensure our government is more responsive and equitable for all our residents,” Olszewski said in a statement. “The Council must act with urgency to ensure this issue is on the ballot so voters can decide this fall.”

The council will hold public hearings on the proposed referendum June 11 and June 25. A final vote is expected July 1.