Who really benefits from expensive primary elections?

The petition process is flawed, as is the system of electing our City Commission. We’re supposed to have a “non-partisan” election- which means without political party interference, but the body that oversees the process (the Montgomery County Board of Elections) is controlled by the two political parties.

For a good look at the primary system process, check out  http://aceproject.org/ace-en/topics/pc/pcy/pcy_usa.

We don’t follow the State election guidelines, instead relying on a charter that was created for a different era. The process favors the political machine and the incumbents, even though the writers of the charter seemed to be trying to at least eliminate party interference. 500 signatures of registered voters doesn’t sound that difficult, until you try to do it in February.

The cost of a primary is $150,000 to open the polls, staff them and count ballots- all to winnow a field that is only declared 60 days before the election. Considering it takes this country almost 2 years to pick a presidential candidate, 60 days is a very short time for anyone to mount any kind of campaign or allow voters to vet the candidates. Now we have candidates who didn’t make the grade, filing lawsuits to force a primary.

Upon the completion of the primary, we’re left with just 2 choices for each seat- and most of the time, one will be the incumbent. Why even bother with this process in the first place? Do the voters get more choices? No. Do the voters get time to investigate the issues? No. Voters just get stuck with a big bill and less choice.

Ultimately, the two major parties get the taxpayers to pay for something that limits the taxpayer’s choice.  If we really want to improve choice, the first thing that should go is the primary system.  If you collect enough verified signatures to get on the ballot, you’re on the ballot.  Then let the voters choose.

We need a better solution, either with a run-off system, or eliminating the separate race for the office of Mayor. Just because the system sounded good almost 100 years ago, doesn’t mean we have to keep it.

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2 Responses

  1. NotDave March 27, 2009 / 4:35 pm
    Let’s check the calculation, Dave-o.
    US Population: 306,095,150 (source: US Census)
    2 years to elect a President: 730 days (might be 731 with a leap year)
    That is one day for each 419,308 people.

    Dayton Population: 166,176 (source: US Census though it is admitedly a 2000 number)
    60 days to hold a primary.
    That is one day for each 2,769 people.

    Now arguably the 166,176 should be lower now for Dayton but that will just drive the 2,769 figure down.

    And, not to be too technical, the two years you cite for a Presidential election is the Primary and General election; the 60 days you cite for Dayton is just the certification to Primary election period.

    So not only is not even an apple to oranges comparison, but even if it were, there is proportionately far more time to get the word out about your candidacy in Dayton than in a Presidential election.

    One could argue that the population figure is not the right one to use and instead we should look at registered voter. I think that argument has some merit. Truthfully I could not find a reliable source for the number of registered voters in America since there is not a national registry, but instead is many state or county registries. But with the massive difference between the national and local ratio(419,000 per day versus 2,800 per day), it would not make any difference.

    Perhaps the real truth is that Dave Esrati, James Greene and Larry Ealy HAVE gotten their viewpoints out, that Daytonians are largely aware of their proposals, and the people understand what characteristics they bring to the table. They just don’t agree with the viewpoints, don’t like the proposals, and don’t want those characteristics in their elected leaders.

    Numerically, it is dramatically easier to get involved in Dayton and get ideas in front of people. For those with bad ideas, it just means it is that much easier to pull back the curtain at the local level than at the national level to show that behind the flash and bombast, there is not very much.

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