When I first started voting, back in the Dark Ages, I tended to vote straight tickets. It seemed the easiest way to vote for many candidates, some of whom I didn’t know. And it was expedited by party symbols at the top of the ballot, where a single “x” stamp counted as a vote for all the candidates in that party.
I’ve seen many different kinds of ballots in the decades since and I don’t recall many that allowed for a simple straight party vote. But now I live in Colorado, where local elections are nonpartisan. That means that no campaign literature mentions the party affiliation of the candidates. Nor do the actual ballots. And I find that frustrating. I don’t vote for a candidate simply because of their party affiliation, but I do think party affiliation tells you a lot about a candidate.
I lived most of my life in Oklahoma City, and over time I came to know the politicians and civic leaders and their positions on various issues. Party affiliation was secondary simply because I knew the people and the issues.
But here in Colorado, where I’ve lived only 15 years, that’s not the case. I have mostly followed state and national candidates and know very little about candidates for mayor, council, school board, etc. Party affiliations would be a pretty good guide, but the elections are nonpartisan. And you may or may not be told the candidates’ positions on various issues, or the information may be presented in a biased way.
As a result, I spent a lot of time digging for information on candidates — parties, voting records, positions, endorsements. (Maybe party shouldn’t matter, but in this time of extreme partisan politics, I think it can’t be ignored.)
We had five mayoral candidates and my research revealed that one worked in the oil & gas industry. Around here, fracking and how it’s regulated (or not) is a very big issue. So scratch that candidate (a Republican). Another one, the one with copious funds, is, despite her experience, a Republican and endorsed by the NRA. Scratch that one. A third candidate, a Democrat, is a virtual unknown, and what little info he released revealed a poor education. Scratch that one. A fourth candidate mentioned in just one obscure place that he’d had some kind of run-in with the police and was planning to contest it. No details, for some reason. A Dem, and one who is hiding something? Scratch that one. The fifth one, the incumbent, for reasons I’ve now forgotten, was also a scratch.
Mind you, except for the incumbent, none of the info in the preceding paragraph was made public during the campaign.
So, for better or worse, I punted. I didn’t vote in the mayoral race. I was able to reach a conclusion in the other races, but not the mayor’s race. And with five candidates, I couldn’t even choose the lesser of two evils. If there’s a runoff, maybe I’ll be able to vote with conviction. But lacking a clearcut choice, I ended up not voting for anyone.
Would things have been different if political affiliations were made known during the campaign and on the ballots? I don’t know. But I don’t appreciate having to dig so much for that information. As an independent, party affiliations don’t always make a difference to me. But in the last few years they have become increasingly relevant.
I don’t know why nonpartisan elections became a thing here, but I don’t like them. Party affiliation is an important indicator, especially when no other information is available.