Thursday, October 23, 2014

Effort to move city elections has partisan puppet strings

3/17/2014

All-knowing state legislators again think they are smarter than local folks and are pushing to change the timing of municipal elections — those non-partisan spring elections to elect local school board and city commission/council members. The initiative to push such elections to the fall was accomplished last week by including a portion of Senate Bill 211 into House Bill 2141 and then having it approved by the Senate Ethics and Elections committee. The newly amended bill now will be considered by the full Senate. This is the state’s version of basketball madness.

The stated reasons for the change — improving voter turnout numbers and saving money by combining elections — both are desirable outcomes.  However, those reasons are window dressing for what legislators really want to accomplish. The original version would move those municipal elections every year. The amended version only moves the municipal elections in even-numbered years so they coincide with state and national election years, such as 2014 and 2016, and then remaining in the current spring cycle during odd-numbered years. State lawmakers seem intent on dictating virtually everything they can without any respect to the separation of powers or even local control. That makes their stated rationalizations suspect. Aligning local elections with exceptionally partisan general elections in November is a likely — though unstated — goal of legislators.

All-knowing state legislators again think they are smarter than local folks and are pushing to change the timing of municipal elections — those non-partisan spring elections to elect local school board and city commission/council members. The initiative to push such elections to the fall was accomplished last week by including a portion of Senate Bill 211 into House Bill 2141 and then having it approved by the Senate Ethics and Elections committee. The newly amended bill now will be considered by the full Senate. This is the state’s version of basketball madness.

The stated reasons for the change — improving voter turnout numbers and saving money by combining elections — both are desirable outcomes.  However, those reasons are window dressing for what legislators really want to accomplish. The original version would move those municipal elections every year. The amended version only moves the municipal elections in even-numbered years so they coincide with state and national election years, such as 2014 and 2016, and then remaining in the current spring cycle during odd-numbered years. State lawmakers seem intent on dictating virtually everything they can without any respect to the separation of powers or even local control. That makes their stated rationalizations suspect. Aligning local elections with exceptionally partisan general elections in November is a likely — though unstated — goal of legislators.

If the change is approved, voters might be compelled to vote for a candidate for school board or city office based on their mandated-disclosure of political party affiliation rather than on the merits of the candidate’s vision for the local role. Other promises presumed with this initiative aren’t guaranteed either. Franklin County Clerk Janet Paddock would have to issue a complex combination of up to 110 different ballots, likely at a higher cost, to satisfy all the possible voting combinations for local, state and federal offices on one ballot, as well as separate ones for Democrats and Republicans in the primary races. It would be a complicated and stressful situation for election workers to keep it all straight.

The way to increase voter turnout is to shake the public out of its apathy and lack of engagement on local issues. Too many people don’t vote because they don’t feel well enough informed on issues, but then members of the public don’t work hard enough to be informed either. Sadly, some state lawmakers were put in office by the same pathetic voting pattern, and it keeps them and their cronies in power at the state level. Now those legislators want to invade local elections to take advantage of that same indifference, so they truly can have dominance of decision-making in every practical spectrum. Those motives alone are a reason to stop this proposed legislation in its tracks. Then locals can work harder to get voters to care as much about who is serving them in these local roles as they do about the basketball teams on their March brackets.

 

— Jeanny Sharp,

editor and publisher

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