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Pro/Con: Should county-level races be partisan?

Feb. 23, 2014 at 10:03 p.m.
Updated Feb. 23, 2014 at 8:24 p.m.

Victoria County Justice of the Peace, Precinct 1 incumbent Richard Castillo, right, speaks during the 2014 Victoria County Primary Candidates Forum at the Leo J. Welder Center in Victoria.

Election type of the top 10 most populous cities

New York City, partisan

Los Angeles, nonpartisan

Chicago, partisan

Houston, partisan

Phoenix, nonpartisan

Philadelphia, partisan

San Antonio, nonpartisan

Dallas, nonpartisan

San Diego, nonpartisan

San Jose, Calif., nonpartisan

SOURCE: The National League of Cities

The Lone Star State adopted its sixth constitution in 1876.

Then, legislators shortened elected officials' terms and lowered their salaries. They were on a mission to cut down the power of the executive branch, which had loomed large, disregarding the Union's mandates after the Civil War ended, according to the Texas Historical Association.

Although legislators have tweaked the lengthy document more than 200 times since it was enacted, the 1876 constitution is still one by which Texans operate today. The constitution is why county-level races are partisan, or ones in which the candidates must file for office under a Democratic or Republican ticket.

"Settlers who moved here, like Sam Houston, who was from Tennessee, really believed in elections and electing a lot of officials," said Gino Tozzi, a University of Houston-Victoria political science lecturer. "The paradox is that citizens now vote at very low rates. ... Texas is consistently in the bottom 10 of all the states (in voter turnout)."

About 60 percent of Victoria County's about 50,000 registered voters cast a ballot in the presidential elections, about 45 percent vote in the gubernatorial elections, and 20 percent or less vote in primaries, according to Elections Administrator George Matthews.

These days, it is more important than ever to fact check the candidates' claims, Tozzi said.

"Unfortunately, it's not an easy thing, and that's probably why few people vote in these elections or make an informed vote, for that matter," he said.

While some say partisanship should not come into play for elected positions that provide services, not policy, others say their absence would confuse voters.

Should county-level races be partisan?

Pro: County-level races should be partisan

Con: Politics should play no part in local elections

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