Friday, August 19, 2011

Unopposed Candidates No Longer Will Appear On Ballots

The news teams at RTV6 and The Indy Star have been covering a story by  The Lafayette Journal & Courier about a new law in Indiana that will remove from ballots both the name of unopposed candidates and the offices they are running for.

The law, which went into effect July 1st, states that, "an election may not be held for a municipal office if there is only one nominee for the office."  The result, which many are now saying was unintentional, is that a race for an office that is unopposed no longer exists to voters.  When we step into the booth, we will have no indication that the office is even up for election.

The purpose of the law was apparently to save a few pennies by making ballots shorter.  If you know me, you know I'm all about saving some taxpayer money.  This is not a good way to go about that, though.  The very, very small amount of money that will be saved is simply not worth it.  These few pennies will only create confusion among voters, and add a level of invisibility to our elected officials.

Voters walking into booths this fall expecting to see every council and mayor race will be faced with confusion when the races they may be there to vote on are not on the ballot.  I expect the confusion created among many voters, and the resulting questions, will end up greatly slowing down the voting process for all involved.  Even if you know what to expect when you step into the chute, the voter in front of you in line may not.  Now we'll all have to wait a little longer while the election officials sort this all out with voters.

Of course, we as citizens have every right to full disclosure about who is representing us.  A large part of that can come from their name on the ballot.  Even if unopposed, every voter should be allowed to see the name of the person that is going to be filling the office for the next term.  Removing those names adds a level of invisibility that I am not comfortable with.

Finally, I feel every voter should have the right to vote for or not vote for every single candidate on the ballot.  Voting is about more than simply picking elected officials.  It is about making a statement.  Voters should be able to make a statement, even in an unopposed race, that they either support or do not support the person who will be sworn in.

From the Lafayette Courier & Journal Story:

-->Peggy Mayfield, clerk in Morgan County and legislative liaison for the Indiana Association of County Clerks, said the wording of the bill as passed is different than she thought it would be.

The association championed the change, but when discussing the idea last spring Mayfield's understanding was that it would only negate ballot names and offices when there were no contested races in a district.

"This is not what we expected as the result, but that's what happened," Mayfield said.<--

I hope that she's right, and this is not at all what was intended.  If so, the Legislature can step in and correct it with little or no opposition in the next session.

I am confused about Mayfield's statement, though, that she thought this law would only take effect on ballots where NO races had opposition.  I highly doubt there are too many of those that exist, Peggy.  It sounds to me like you're backpedaling.

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