Friday, May 13, 2011

With the primary less than a week away, It's time to re-float an idea I proposed two years ago.
Democrats and Republicans will pick their nominees for state, county, school board and municipal offices on Tuesday.
In judicial and school board races, candidates can cross file; that is seek the nomination of both the Republican and Democratic parties. The system was designed to take the politics out of the process. But it's not NON-PARTISAN. It's BI-PARTISAN. That's a huge difference. 
Thousands of voters who don't belong to either of the major parties cannot vote in the primary. 
To make the process truly non-partisan I propose the following; a  non-partisan runoff primary in which all registered voters can participate.
Here's how it would work in the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas race.
All sixteen (16) candidates would appear on a single ballot. Each candidate would be listed along with their party of registration. For example; John Aciukewicz (D) Richard Hughes (R). 
There would not be a Democratic ballot and a Republican ballot. 
The number of nominations available would be twice the number of vacancies. In Luzerne County's case, the field would be narrowed to the top twelve (12) candidates since there are six (6) vacancies. Voters could cast their ballots for up to six (6) candidates.
Candidates who do not belong to either of the major parties could also file nominating petitions for the Primary runoff. A candidate from the Green Party could be on the ballot providing she or he obtained the signatures of Green Party registered voters. The number of signatures would be the same for all candidates. The big difference in a runoff primary, ALL voters, not just Democrats and Republicans could vote.
The runoff Primary could and should be used in School Board and Magisterial District Judge races as well. Double the number of vacancies to get the number of candidates who would square off in the November Election. Five School Board vacancies? Ten top finishers in the runoff move on. In November, the candidates would again appear on one ballot listed in their order of finish in the primary runoff.
The runoff could even be used in municipal races for Mayor, Council and Township Supervisor. The argument would be made that in towns where one party dominates the registration, you could see all Democrats or all Republicans squaring off in November's election. Sure that possibility exists, but in all likelihood the process would open up for the minority party and even third party candidates.
Those seeking office would have to seek the popular vote and not just speak to the voters of their party. That takes the partisan politics out of the race.
If we truly want to encourage participation in primaries and elections, give voters a reason to go the polls in May and November.

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