Advocate Editorial Board opinion: Voter education more important than label

By the Advocate Editorial Board
March 23, 2013 at 3:04 p.m.
Updated March 22, 2013 at 10:23 p.m.

Political parties are powerful things. Every day, America is reminded of the constant strain between conflicting groups trying to lead our country in different directions.

On the national and statewide scale, political parties serve their purpose. They pool resources and give people a focused set of ideals and goals to unite behind. But on a smaller scale, the need for political parties in elections seems unnecessary.

Victoria County Judge Don Pozzi's recent decision to shift from the Democratic to the Republican party illustrates our point. Pozzi, who has been elected county judge for three terms under the Democratic party label, is a qualified public servant who has served this county well and faithfully. However, in the last election, Pozzi only narrowly held his seat against a challenger with far less experience running on the Republican ticket.

This was a surprising result and suggests that many voters in this overwhelmingly conservative area chose to simply pull the lever for a straight-party Republican ballot rather than go through and choose each candidate based on their merits. This is a disappointing thought and emphasizes the unnecessarily divisive nature of political parties in smaller elections.

Countywide offices in general have a small enough community that candidates should be judged on their merits, not on which label they have attached to their name. In these localized races where candidates are able to have face-to-face interaction with voters and the community on a daily basis, political parties become an oversimplified, inaccurate source of division rather than a banner to unite those with similar beliefs and goals. Voters should focus on who the individual is and what they propose to do for their community.

The city of Victoria holds elections for the City Council free of the political party system, which not only requires voters to do some investigating but also eliminates the easy way out for voters to pick the straight-party option and possibly pass over better-qualified candidates who chose not to use the voter's label of choice.

The party system has served a purpose in nationwide elections, where candidates must be vetted and confirm they have the experience and strength necessary to lead on a national stage. But that process is not nearly so in-depth, if present at all, in county elections, in which many candidates are able to run for an office in whichever party they choose, sometimes completely unopposed in primaries. If voters simply pull the lever instead of educating themselves about the individual candidates, the results could be at the least disappointing, at worst disastrous. We now live in an age when county candidates are able to spread information readily and are more accessible than ever. Voters should have adequate resources to examine county candidates and make an educated decision rather than turning to a mindless default decision.

It is time to drop the divisive parties and encourage voter education. If voters look at the individual rather than rely on the label, we will find the best public servants for our county, not from one particular party. To truly pick the best, most-qualified leaders, voters must be willing to let go of the straight-ticket lever and vote based on individual merit.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.



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