Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Partisan Elections; Where Did They Come From?

During the campaign I have been asked on several occasions why we have to vote by party in the local primary elections. Many individuals have approached me stating that they want to vote for me, but also want to vote for one of the GOP gubernatorial candidates. That's a good question.

How was it decided that school boards and city elections would be non-partisan, yet county government is partisan? By county government being partisan local folks in many counties across the state must choose to vote in the state election or the local election.

I asked why partisan elections started at the county level, and the only answer that I got was that they had to start somewhere. I guess that is a point, but are local county elections a good starting point in this day and time? Seems that this system inhibits voters from casting votes for all candidates they are interested in.

According to Jim Allison partisan elections actually began at the Federal level. To maximize their influence on policy, national leaders organized into the Federal Party (succeeded by the Whigs and now the Republicans) and the Republican Party (succeeded by the Democrats) for the election of 1800.

During the 1800's, the political parties extended their organization and influence into state and local elections by selecting and endorsing candidates through a convention system. In 1905, Texas election laws were changed to require that major party nominees had to be selected by a party primary rather than a party convention.

County and precinct positions were included since the county is an arm of the state. However, municipal and local district elections were allowed to remain "non-partisan." Whether county and precinct candidates should be affiliated with a political party has remained controversial.

For many years in Blanco County all candidates filed as independents so as not to affiliate themselves with any political party. Over the years there have been a number of moves to move the judiciary to non-partisan or appointed positions. Naturally, these proposals have been opposed by both political parties. Since members of the legislature are elected by the partisan system the chances of change are problematic.

Jim Allison serves as General Counsel to the County Judges and County Commissioners Association.

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