Annapolis Weighs Benefits of Non-Partisan Elections
A proposed amendment to the Annapolis Charter would remove political party affiliation from the ballots.
Voters in Annapolis' 2013 elections could be choosing from an array of candidates rather than political parties if a proposed amendment to the city's charter passes.
The seven-member Charter Revision Commission recommended shifting the city's municipal elections to a non-partisan system at Monday night's City Council meeting.
"It attracts a wider pool of candidates. Not only party people, but independents and anyone else who wishes to put themselves forward," commissioner Nick Berry said. "It lessens political polarization, and there's evidence it makes city deliberations more congenial."
The cities of Rockville, Gaithersburg and Bowie all have non-partisan elections.
Candidates would still be able to declare a party affiliation if they wished and political parties would still be able to support candidates, but the ballots would only list names.
One noticeably absent aspect of the commission's proposal was how to handle primary elections—which are currently closed in Annapolis.
Alderman Richard Israel (D-1st Ward) suggested having the races end at the primary if any candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote.
Another idea put forth by resident Dough Smith, who spoke in support of the amendment, would be to have two rounds of voting. The first round would be an open primary followed by a general election for the top two primary finishers for each office.
"I think we would have more diversity," Smith said. "I also think it enables more people to vote for candidates."
Alderman Fred Paone (R-2nd Ward) asked whether an open primary would be enough to increase diversity in municipal elections.
"I think that’s a definite step forward," Smith said. "But I think it’s a half-step."
Mayor Josh Cohen had his own reservations about the idea.
"I think having a party affiliation is help to voters," Cohen said.
Cohen wouldn't say whether he'll support the charter amendment. He wants to wait and see what comes out of the Rules and City Government Committee—which is where the amendment heads next.
What do you think about non-partisan elections? Do you support the idea?