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.