LARGO, Md. (DC News Now) — In Prince George’s County, Council members are required to vote and pass legislation in person. This week the council took a vote to change that rule – which would allow them to vote virtually – but it did not pass.
With the council having their first-ever pregnant member, who’s expecting to give birth next month, she now won’t be able to vote unless she’s there in person.
“I was angry, disappointed, shocked. Angry because I think that the issue became more about making sure that I don’t have access or the ability to vote,” said District 7 Council Member Krystal Oriadha.
When Prince George’s County was under a state of emergency for the COVID-19 pandemic, Council Members were allowed to attend sessions and vote virtually. Since it’s been lifted, they’ve required members to vote in person, which makes it difficult for Oriadha. She says she was hoping to vote on legislation virtually while staying and home and taking care of her newborn.
“There is nothing in the rules currently right now around parental leave or maternity leave, nothing,” she said.
Some members who voted against the change had strong opinions.
District 2 Council Member Wanika Fisher, who was formerly a Maryland State House Representative, shared that her former colleagues still attended sessions in person despite giving birth.
“I had two colleagues give birth and be in Annapolis the entire legislative session. Not only [did] she give birth but she was also on crutches and there was no exception,” said Fisher.
“Since December I’ve sat in this chair and listened to your moralistic, holier-than-thou comments,” said Council Member At-Large Calvin Hawkins towards Oriadha during the council meeting. “We are a county council of 11, you all since December made it a county council of six. Let’s set the record straight and talk real talk.”
Oriadha says times are changing, and being able to vote virtually is bigger than her pregnancy.
“What happens if a member is sick, hospitalized? What if we have members where their spouses or loved ones are hospitalized? We can make reasonable accommodations that allows for a entire community not to lose their voice and their vote,” she said.
For now, she says she’ll make accommodations to vote in person but she’s not giving up on allowing virtual voting to be an option.