Members of Ann Arbor’s city council failed to override a mayoral veto on an initiative to put a proposal to end nonpartisan voting on the November 2019 ballot. The council needed eight votes to override the veto, and the council voted 7-4 for the override.
The original initiative called for a proposal to be put on the ballot that would allow Ann Arbor voters to decide if they want nonpartisan elections.
In the current system of partisan elections in Ann Arbor, those who wish to run for mayor or city council seek either the Democratic or Republican nomination. There are Democratic and Republican primaries in August, and the respective winners of those primaries go onto the general election.
In a nonpartisan election, there would be an August primary if more than three people ran for office. They would not have to disclose their party affiliation or run in a primary for a particular party. The top two winners of that nonpartisan primary would then become candidates for the general election in November.
Chip Smith is the city council representative from Ann Arbor’s 5th ward. He voted against overriding the mayor’s veto. He’s not opposed to the proposal, but feels as though it should be on the 2020 ballot instead of 2019.
“I think that we need to have as many people in the city participate in such an election, and putting this on the 2020 ballot will ensure that we will have the highest level of participation that we could hope for.”
He says voter turnout is expected to be high in 2020, compared to the relatively low voter turnout expected in 2019.
“In November of 2019, there’s only one other issue on the ballot, and it’s school millage. If you look at the last three elections where school millage was the primary issue on the ballot, we’ve had citywide turnouts of nine percent, ten percent, and 21 percent. For an issue that affects our elections, I think we should not let a small group of largely homeowners decide how to change that.”
Chris Taylor is the mayor of Ann Arbor. He says party identification is essential to transparency within elections.
“In nonpartisan elections, you're prohibited from including party identification on the ballot. In my view, party identification is an incredibly important statement with respect to a person's value set, and I believe that voters have a right to know where their candidate stands.”
He says the current election system isn’t perfect, but it’s better than a nonpartisan system. “I agree, our system is imperfect, but we do not make our system better by allowing candidates to hide who they are.”
Members of city council who voted to override the veto could not be reached for comment at the time of publishing.