From the League of Women Voters of Lincoln County
Nonpartisan Election of County Commissioners
County Commissioners are the only elected Lincoln County officials chosen in a partisan election. The Commissioners have referred an ordinance to the November 5th ballot that would change the way they are elected, making their selection method nonpartisan.
The League of Women Voters of Lincoln County neither supports nor opposes this change, but would like to inform our community about this issue and urge people to vote.
In addition to the information provided in this article, the League is sponsoring a forum on the ballot measure. The forum will be held at 6:30 pm on Friday, October 18, at the Newport Recreation Center. The forum panelists are Lincoln County Commissioner Bill Hall, Independent Party member David Allen, and Brenda Brown. The meeting is open to the public and refreshments will be provided.
In a partisan election, the name of the party that nominated the candidate or “nonaffiliated” appears on the ballot with each candidate’s name. Partisan elections for County Commissioner positions are held in November of even-numbered years.
The way candidates get on the November ballot depends on their party affiliation. Democrats and Republicans can enter their party’s May primary election, either by paying a $50 fee or by collecting the required number of signatures. Minor parties nominate candidates according to the party’s by-laws. A nonaffiliated candidate can get on the November ballot either by a petition of individual electors or through nomination by an Assembly of Electors. The candidate with the most votes is elected in November.
A nonpartisan election ballot does not contain an indication of a candidate’s party affiliation. Nonpartisan elections for County Commissioner positions are held in May of even-numbered years. Candidates may file by paying a fee ($50) or by collecting the required number of signatures. A nonpartisan candidate is elected at the primary election if the candidate receives a majority of the votes cast (at least 50% plus one vote). If no candidate receives a majority of votes, the top two vote-getters move forward to the November election.
Arguments advanced by those who favor the change (yes vote):
* The nature of the position is nonpartisan, thus the nonpartisan election procedure should be used.
* Nonpartisan elections are fairer than partisan ones because all candidates, regardless of party affiliation, follow the same rules to get on the ballot.
* Candidates who are nonaffiliated or affiliated with a minor party have a better chance (than currently) to get on the ballot, thus both afford voters a wider choice and gives more citizens a chance to serve as County Commissioner.
* Nonpartisan elections are fairer because the all voters get to choose among all candidates. For example, there may be more than one Republican (or Democrat) on the ballot.
* Arguments advanced by opponents of the change (no vote):
* We currently have partisan elections for County Commissioner, and that has not politicized the way county business is conducted. The election process isn’t broken; don’t try to fix it.
* Partisan identification is a helpful indication to voters as to candidates’ positions on a variety of issues of importance to County governance.
* Nonpartisan elections increase the number of candidates’ names on the ballot and decrease information about them. The absence of party labels confuses voters.
National studies show that people are less likely to vote in nonpartisan elections and fewer people vote in May than in November elections, so this change would probably result in fewer people voting for County Commissioner.
* Having more than two candidates for the same County Commissioner position on the May ballot makes it more likely that a November run-off will be required.
League of Women Voters of Lincoln County