The Klamath County League of Women Voters are petitioning to change County Commissioner positions from being partisan to nonpartisan. The exact question they are asking to be put on the ballot is
"Should all county commissioner positions become nonpartisan beginning in 2013?"
According to their editorial in the Herald & News, the League of Women Voters believe that the current process is "unfair." The way they are using the term unfair is to mean they can't do what they want to do — have more of an impact on the primary system than they do now. If you look at the article, our colleague A. Smith has done a nice job explaining why using the term unfair in this way is dishonest (as is their entire public reasoning). You can view his commentary here.
However, my purpose is to ask, why are some county elections partisan and others not? If you stop and think for a moment the answer is fairly simple and straightforward. Plus, it's one that makes common sense and serves the public good.
Let's take a few examples: Judges, District Attorneys and Sheriffs. All three of these county positions are nonpartisan. Why do you suppose that is? Let me ask this a different way, if you were pulled over by the Sheriff and were a well known Democrat, but the Sheriff was elected as a "Republican" do you think the appearance of that would go over well with the public? How about if you are a Republican accused of a crime being prosecuted by an District Attorney who was elected as a Democrat? In these two examples we have great potential for the appearance of real bias and unfairness. Therefore to remove any appearance of unfairness all elected officials that handle law enforcement are nonpartisan.
On the other hand we have County Commissioners. What's different about County Commissioners when compared to elected Law Enforcement officials? The main difference is that County Commissioners make public policy that Law Enforcement enforce. Do you think it is a good idea to understand the philosophical framework that each County Commissioner will use to make policy? What is the quickest way to get an idea what that philosophy is? The party system. When you say, "I'm a republican", it means something. When you say, "I'm a democrat" it means something else. And when you claim to be an Independent it means a another thing. These terms carry broad policy connotations with them in order to help voters understand the general framework in which a County Commissioner will make policy decisions.
In summary, partisan positions do public good for those elected officials who will make policy and are a detriment for those who will enforce that policy. Making all positions partisan or all positions nonpartisan is just nonpartisan nonsense.
Don't be fooled. Vote no on the League of Women Voters ballot measure to change County Commissioner elections to nonpartisan.