By Shelby Stewart
Brandon Twp.- On Monday night, the township board made a resolution, 6-0, that they were in opposition to legislation that would allow township boards the option to have its elected offices appear as nonpartisan on the ballot. Trustee Kris Kordella was absent with notice.
“Personally I am in the middle on this, because I always thought we up here should be working as nonpartisan people because we work for the township and the residents, and once we’re in office the job really is pretty nonpartisan,” said Township Supervisor Kathy Thurman.
The Michigan Township Association (MTA) has asked their member townships to take a stance on the issue, which was originally brought up in 2012. Recently, MTA discovered that a state representative plans to introduce and actively promote legislation to make nonpartisan township offices optional to townships.
“We don’t vote party lines, but I think that people want to identify you as, in my view, as liberal or conservative,” said Treasurer Terri Darnall.
The reasons given by the MTA for not wanting nonpartisan elections were all supported by the board. The reasons given are that partisan elections are inherent in the culture and traditions of Michigan township government, townships and counties are statutory governments, part affiliations help voters know a candidate’s values, township board composition should change as electors’ expectations and ideologies change, township board decisions can reflect an expansive or a limited role of government consistent with party ideologies, partisan local elections are instructive to voters as to how state and national partisan elections work and, because the nonpartisan section is at the bottom of a long ballot, “voter fatigue” results in fewer votes in the nonpartisan section of the ballot.
“The board also stated that the inability to hold a primary election to narrow down candidates is a reason they oppose the possible legislation.“I’m opposed to it completely for all the reasons they said,” said trustee Jayson Rumball.
“I think people like to know that the people they’re voting for have the same values as them and, unfortunately, political parties are one way for most people to determine that. I mean, you’re right, once you’re here, most of the stuff is nonpartisan, but there are quite a few things that are.”
One issue that board and community members brought up is that voters want to vote for those with similar ideologies to themselves.
“I tend to agree with Kathy, you’re not always voting a democratic way or a republican way, but I agree with the residents and what Terri said in that people want to know who they’re putting into office, they want to know which way they go,” said trustee Dana DePalma. “We’re not as political as the other levels of government, so I could understand that, but I know when it comes to voting time that some voters don’t do as much research.”
Trustee Bob Marshall agreed, as did former trustee and resident Scott Broughton.
“One of the small little snippets that people have to look on the ballot and see if our ideology aligns with theirs, is that R or that D afterwards,” said Marshall. “I know there are some arguments that say it doesn’t matter, I say it does matter. Briefly, when I was on the trail, putting signs up or getting petitions sighed, here’s how the questions went: one, what does a trustee do? I’m not holding people accountable for this, but they don’t pay attention to local politics as much as we think they do. Second question was, now that they know what I do, questions about taxes obviously. But the third question was, are you a republican or a democrat?” said Broughton.
“And the reason they ask that is when they’re voting, they can look on that ballot and say ‘I want republicans in there’ because it does have to do with how we tax and spend, property rights, second amendment issues, these all matter.”
Since the board voiced their opposition and gave reasons, it will go back and be noted by MTA when they are discussing their position on the topic.