Jul 28, 2014

City Council Votes Against Having Non-Partisan Elections

In a 7-2 vote, the council decided that having a candidate's party affiliation on the ballot is an important element to keep in Annapolis elections.

City Council Votes Against Having Non-Partisan Elections

Annapolis voters will still see a political party designation next to its candidates on the ballot for at least the next 10 years.

That's because the City Council voted 7-2 against a proposed charter amendment to move Annapolis to non-partisan elections. Alderman Fred Paone (R-2nd Ward) and Alderman Richard Israel (D-1st Ward) supported the amendment.

"I don’t really understand what the problem is," Alderman Ross Arnett said. "I don’t really feel that the parties are telling us on the council what to do. I don’t remember the last time I heard from the Democratic Central Committee."

A seven-member Charter Revision Commission recommended shifting the city's municipal elections to a non-partisan system. The commission, which is convened every 10 years, said in a report to council in October that it would attract a wider pool of candidates and lessen political polarization.

"We would be better off with non-partisan elections," commissioner Gilbert Renaut said.

Scott Bowling, a former candidate for City Council, spoke in support of the amendment. He said a lot of people shy away from the political process "because they don’t strongly and unanimously affiliate with one party or another."

He also said that the business that comes before the council and other similar municipalities in Maryland rarely breaks along partisan lines. In fact, the majority of cities and towns in the state have non-partisan elections with Annapolis, Baltimore and Frederick being the exceptions.

The last commission in 2003 also recommended shifting to a non-partisan system.

Israel pointed out that about a quarter of city voters are not affiliated with one political party and cannot vote in primary elections in the Democratic or Republican primary.

"I think that’s the most compelling argument—that it would be inclusive of those voters," Israel said.

Arnett disagreed and said, "I think those people made their choice. They know that they’re excluded, and they must feel that its more important to be independent."

Arnett, Mayor Josh Cohen and a majority of the council agreed that often time the business of council is non-partisan in nature. Cohen, a Democrat, said despite that fact, he still thinks political parties have value.

"I think party label is a good thing," Cohen said. "If a person doesn’t know anything about a candidate, it gives the voter some sense of what their views are as a candidate."

He added that he believes the council works well within the two-party system citing the unanimous passage of fiscal year 2013's budget.

"We’re already doing it," Cohen said. "We’re already conducting ourselves in a productive, non-partisan way."

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