KATIE ZERR: Change is needed in county elections


As the country and the world revolves around us, sometimes the State of South Dakota lags behind. Sometimes this is a wonderful and comforting trait that allows us to save our way of life. In others, it may be time to open up to alternatives

In South Dakota voters who are registered Independent or are non-party affiliated in some instances do not have a say in county elections. If a resident is not registered as a Republican and there are only members of that party running for office (which happens more than not in a state with a Republican majority), those of other political affiliations have no say in who is elected.

When there are candidates from only one party running for county offices, then elections are decided in primaries, meaning only Republicans or Democrats can vote for county-held offices, unless otherwise designated by state law. In some states Independents are allowed to vote in primaries, but only in a handful.

In a different time, this practice kept the state in a one-party strong hold, but with the evolution of county government, these offices are more and more administrative.

The question is, is it necessary to have party affiliated elections on the county level?

As a community, we know our candidates. We know where they stand on issues and to what party they have allegiance. So is it necessary to continue the party affiliated elections, knowing a portion of the community will not have a say in who is elected to those offices?

The easy answer is that those who want a voice in the election can always change their party registration.

But doesn’t that fly in the face of what a democracy truly is?

There may be a myriad of reasons a resident does not want to have a party affiliation. One of those reasons could be that neither party at this time demonstrates the standards and beliefs of voters. So isn’t saying that those voters must either be Democrats or Republicans in order to have a voice punishing those principles?

In seats of governments where law is debated, created and changed, there is a need to know what candidate supposedly holds the same values as those who are voting. But in seats of government with a primary focus of administration of county government, why is that necessary?

We know if the people who are running for these offices are qualified, dependable, honest and will do the best job possible, so why is it important to have party affiliated elections?

For years in Walworth County, only Republicans have been able to vote for county offices because there are only Republican candidates. Across the country this is true in many area, whether predominately Democrat or Republican.

At Saturday’s cracker barrel session with District 23 Senator Corey Brown and Representative Justin Cronin, the question of why the state has not changed the law that requires county elections to have party affiliations, Rep. Cronin said it might be time for that change.

He said with the number of voters registered as Independent growing faster than either of the two big parties, that Republicans might be looking to allow that group to vote in Republican primaries.

State law needs to be changed in order for counties in the state to have non-party affiliated elections. That means the South Dakota Legislature must take on the task of changing that law.

If we want to have a voice in who holds positions in government that do not deal with legislation, we need to push our legislators to introduce change.

Change will take a long time to come about, as we know in South Dakota, we do not easily change our ways, but it is time to take a long look at this issue.

It is important for residents to stand on their principles and changing this law will not interfere with that. Those who fight against this should try to look at it through another’s eyes.

How would those members of the majority party in our state feel if the shoe was on the other foot?

Would they tolerate having no voice in choosing who would work for them in administering county government?





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