In response to House Bill 129, the Gallatin County Commission is considering asking the voters of Gallatin County to change county elections from partisan to non-partisan. For more information, visit https://www.gallatinmedia.org/?p=6105. After discussion among members of the Gallatin County Democrats, we submitted the following statement in opposition to this proposed change in Gallatin County.
On behalf of the Gallatin County Democratic Party–
Non-partisan elections have an innocent appeal, especially as national politics becomes increasingly polarized. Non-partisan elections were conceived of in the early 1900s to remove party politics at the local level and make them more responsive to citizens.
In a perfect world, it might do just that but in our busy “gotta make a living world” where Montanans are 5th highest in the nation for people working two or more jobs, and in a county where housing and living costs are rising, people are hard pressed to become fully informed about candidates for local office. We can call these people “low-information voters” or we can call them what they are: Us. Parents, workers, students, professionals – we are busy people with good intentions and not as much time at the end of the day as we might like to have to research the roles and duties of each elected office, who is running, and what each candidate’s policy positions are.
Some of us only have a name and party affiliation of the candidate for office to go by.
According to a research paper on this topic, “Teams without Uniforms: The Nonpartisan Ballot in State and Local Elections,” voters defer to choosing by gender or race, or incumbency. Or, we choose not to vote at all. I would like to supply you with a copy of this paper which has excellent citations of the authors’ work as well as prior research on this topic.
I don’t believe it is the intention of the Commission to suppress voter turnout, but that is exactly what happens when we don’t offer that one bit of information: party affiliation. When we consider that elections for county office are held at the same time as mid-term elections when voter turnout is lighter than in Presidential elections, we might expect a compounding effect further suppressing voter turnout.
The roles of elected county officers affect us every day and we, as voters, deserve to know party affiliation because our values are represented by these political parties.
The Gallatin County Democratic Party urges you to vote NO on this proposal to make county elections non-partisan.