Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Nonpartisanship

One of the more interesting things that I've noticed from yesterday's election is the number of Democrats in Oconee County and Walton County who didn't cast a ballot in the Democratic primary because the majority, if not all, of their local candidates were on the Republican ballot. So, as a result, they were forced to choose and opted to vote on a slate of local elections via the GOP ticket, thus preventing them from adhering to their party allegiances and getting their voice heard - and subsequently reheard in the runoff - for the U.S. Senate primary.

Now, this is something we don't have to deal with in Athens-Clarke County anymore because we moved to non-partisan elections for our local seats a few years back following the understandable concern confronting citizens over choosing between a the mayoral race on the Democratic ticket and the U.S. Congressional GOP primary between Max Burns and Athens resident Barbara Dooley. At the time, it wasn't a terribly popular move among area Democrats since they controlled, and still do, the bulk of locally elected offices. And one has to presume that Republicans in Oconee County and Walton County won't be awfully receptive to a switch either.

Still, it was the right thing to do a few years back here, and it's the right thing to do in those two counties (and across the state). From a pragmatic perspective, one's ideological views have less to do with how you'd approach business at the local level. I know plenty of Republicans who are very committed to smart growth policies, while I know plenty of Democrats who are for rampant development. From a fairness perspective, it allows people to participate in their respective party's primaries and still get to have a say in local elections.

4 Comments:

Blogger Oconee Democrat said...

Bravo sir, might you be interested in being a panelist on said topic in an as of yet unplanned/uncertain future discussion date in Oconee probably at the library?

9:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it's a good move to have non-partisan local elections. Another alternative would be to have blanket or cajun style primaries, but that is a state level decision.

My first choice would be a blanket primary system where I could vote on the Republican side in some races and the Democratic side in others. The Supreme court seems to think that this is an unconstitutional infringement on the rights of political parties. Not sure why since we are talking about publicly financed primaries.
If a party doesn't like the rules, they are free not to participate.

Cajun style works for me too....

9:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love this: the same people who argued that civilization as we know it would end as soon as Athens shifted to non-partisan elections are arguing that maybe it's time for the OC to do the same.

Reggie

6:11 AM  
Anonymous james said...

We were able to institute nonpartisan elections for the Athens-Clarke County Commission due to the fact that we have a unified (or "consolidated") city-county government.

I wrote three articles on the issue of nonpartisan elections back in 2003-2004 for Athens Weekly News, in which I detailed the lengthy history of the idea in Clarke County and demolished some of the hysterical arguments against changing from partisan to nonpartisan elections for the Commission (contrary to what some would have had you believe, it was not a recent plot devised by the evil GOP). Also, with all due humility, I wiped up the floor with the Democrat Party and Green Party representatives at a forum concerning nonpartisan elections held at Athens Regional Library prior to the local referendum (I was in favor of nonpartisan elections and the other two were not).

Contrary to what many believe, the Constitution is silent on the matter of partisan versus nonpartisan elections for county commissioners. Instead, the state’s code governs; says O.C.G.A. 21-2-139(a), in part:

"Notwithstanding any other provisions of this chapter to the contrary, the General Assembly may provide by local Act for the election in nonpartisan elections of candidates to fill county judicial offices, offices of local school boards, and offices of consolidated governments which are filled by the vote of the electors of said county or political subdivision."

The presumption is that, since county governments generally are not specified in the code section, they must hold partisan elections for their offices by default. Thus, for a regular county government, such as that in Oconee County, to change to nonpartisan elections, the state’s code would have to be changed to allow for county governments generally to pursue the change through local legislation in the General Assembly.

11:05 AM  

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