The one about nonpartisan elections

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.

7 thoughts on “The one about nonpartisan elections

  1. It’s the same way here for local and judicial elections. I tend to ignore party anyway on the city and county level, partly because a lot of ours are independent. State and national offices, I think it matters more, but what matters most to me is whether candidates can transcend partisanship. Unfortunately, that’s harder to find every day.

    1. Our judicial elections are also nonpartisan. I used to think all judges were nonpartisan (or certainly should be), but I’ve since decided human beings can’t completely divorce themselves from their partisan (liberal or conservative) leanings. It’s kind of like expecting reporters to be completely unbiased. It’s an admirable but unrealistic ideal. (And yes, I search for political affiliations among judges, too.)

  2. I don’t think I’d like that, either. I remember the first time I voted, maybe the 2nd time, too, we could vote straight-party-ticket, like you mentioned. Select either Dem or Rep and all the candidates would be selected per their ticket. Not anymore. That was back in Indiana, but they did away with at years ago before I left the state. Although I do prefer to vote for the person over party, realistically, I typically know nothing to very little about local candidates. So I have to vote for the party I support since chances are that candidate will be more likely to have the same values that I do.

    You know, that may have been a pain, but you did find out more about your candidates than you would have if their party affiliation was posted on the ballot. However…. the vast majority of voters will not take that amount of time, really probably won’t even take 5 minutes of time, to research any given candidate.

    (p.s. I LOVE Grammarly! Thanks for that!!)

    1. You’re right about the time I spent on research. Had their parties been publicized, I’d have limited my search to the Dems. Yes, I probably sound very partisan and narrow-minded. But Washington has made me that way. Anymore I just don’t see giving Republicans a leg up in their political careers. But you said it best: “So I have to vote for the party I support since chances are that candidate will be more likely to have the same values that I do.”

      I had heard of Grammarly but would never have tried it if WordPress hadn’t dropped their spellchecker. Lucky for both of us!

    1. I doubt if it results in more informed voters; I can’t imagine many voters putting in the time I did for just one race. My guess is it just results in more people voting for whichever name seems most familiar — in other words, whoever spent the most on their campaign.

... and that's my two cents