Thursday, June 28, 2007

Commentary on Partisan Elections

Response to Commentary by Chris Pelly on Partisan Elections:

It’s my party
Partisan elections promote full disclosure
Chris Pelly
Mountain Xpress

POINT 1. Mr. Pelly states, “In the last six election cycles—all of them nonpartisan elections—not a single third-party candidate was elected to City Council. How could switching to partisan elections make things any worse?”

Who could not answer this question?!

How could switching to partisan elections make things any worse? By making things worse!

With nonpartisan elections, the unaffiliated can freely compete alongside anyone else in the political marketplace. In this open participation in the political process, it matters not that there may be poor support for a third party. What does matter is that the door remain open to anyone who chooses public service. Changing the charter to partisan elections makes things worse by slamming the door on the 27% of unaffiliated in Asheville.

So the question really should be: How do partisan elections in Asheville make things substantially better?

In his ham-fisted attempt to address this question, Mr. Pelly argues in favor of transparency regarding affiliation. But there has been nothing opaque about city elections in the last 13 years. On the contrary, visibility of party affiliation is the one perennial constant in local political races.

Mr. Pelly also introduces circular logic in his main argument in favor of partisan elections. He maintains that the unaffiliated should be marginalized and excluded because they are not popular. But are they unpopular precisely because they are systematically excluded? Chicken - Egg; Egg - Chicken.

POINT 2. Mr. Pelly states, “we do have a self-correcting process: It’s called elections.”

No, Mr. Pelly. We have, in fact, THREE legal and valid democratic methods of so-called "self-correcting": 1) ELECTIONS; 2) REFERENDUM; and, 3) RECALL.

All three of these methods are available to the public for their redress of various grievances; not just the one that Mr. Pelly would draw our attention to. The “Let Asheville Vote” coalition has chosen the second of the two methods: The Referendum. That is our right and the one we will pursue with vigor. Failing that, the other two options -- Elections and Recall -- are certainly still available and can be entertained when appropriate.

POINT 3. Rather than the burden falling on his readers to justify why the charter should NOT be changed to partisan elections, the burden here is entirely on Mr. Pelly to justify why the charter SHOULD be changed. And he most certainly has not done that in these pages.