Saturday, April 18, 2015

Just what N.C. needed: More partisanship

Just what N.C. needed: More partisanship
Editor | Asheville Citizen-Times

EDITOR: "Backers say it gives voters more information and increases voter participation and that local elections are already partisan. First, let’s dispense with the 'information' argument."

The writer did NOT dispense with the information argument, nor any of the other backers' arguments. He merely asserted that he did.

The truth is that these are elections. Party affiliation matters in elections. A person's political philosophy matters in electing legislators, local government officials, judges and school board members.

In each case, the conduct of public affairs is guided by certain principles. In certain mundane affairs, like getting off a school bus, it make little difference. But in the really important things, a person's political philosophy can determine the moral landscape for a generation. It serves no honest purpose to have those guiding principles suspended in mystery in the crucial moment of exercising voting rights.

In nonpartisan races, the candidates are often unknown to the voter, leaving them with the choice of marking the ballot based on solely on name recognition, for good or for ill, or of skipping that race altogether and not participating in the moment of truth when it matters most. The only information voters have to go on, in those cases, is affiliation. But that is the one piece of vital information that is missing.

Indeed, activists go to great lengths to inform voters of this missing information in nonpartisan elections. They scramble to print "cheat sheets" and hand them out of street corners at election time so that voters will be informed. And all because this information is not included on the ballot handed them.

We can lower the political temperature at no cost by simply informing voters at the point of sale.

If we accept the writer's premise, that elections should be less partisan, then we would advocate for nonpartisan elections statewide. And yet we do not.

Recall that Asheville city council elections are nonpartisan and you will get a sense of how helpful that has been.

The question asked by an unbiased newspaper editor should be, why would anyone running for elective office want to conceal their party affiliation from those voting for them? I suspect it is because voters, regardless of their own affiliation, tend to favor the morally serious conservative mindset in matters of education and jurisprudence. (Judicial and school board elections are the only nonpartisan elections left to us.)

We've already seen what this concealment has given us in education. Let us now try the fully informed path.