View Full Version : Who decides if political parties are involved in an election?

Emilio Lizardo
12-07-2006, 08:08 AM
In state and federal elections, candidates are routinely members of one party or another (or independents.) In many local elections, though, such as my city (pop 15,000) and my county council, everyone runs as an independent; there are no party affiliations. In larger cities, of course, elected officials DO have party affiliations. How is it decided if parties will support / represent / align with candidates in a given election?

12-07-2006, 09:21 AM
All elections are controlled by the states (even Presidential elections are really just statewide races) and every state has somewhat different standards.

Certain offices are designated either in the state Constitution, statutes, or the charter for a particular municipality as being non-partisan, and so those ballots do not list party affiliations.

According to Pliny
12-07-2006, 09:41 AM
I think that's a great idea!
Let's make all the offices nonpartisan, like George Washington urged.
Then there would be more than two Tweedle-Dum Tweedle-Dee candidates fighting for the political center.

12-07-2006, 09:58 AM
It has nothing to do with the size of the city. In many cases, the state law leaves it up to the city charter to decide whether the elections will be officially "nonpartisan." In many cities there are also open primaries.

In some cases -- such as for the Ohio Supreme Court -- there are partisan primaries but nonpartisan general elections.

As a practical matter, however, in most cases, such nominal nonpartisanship has little to no effect. Most candidates are not, in fact, independents. They just aren't allowed to designate their party affiliations on the ballot. You can't stop someone from being a member of a party -- that would infringe on First Amendment rights -- but you can just leave that off the ballot.

I don't see how this really helps anyone. When it comes to obscure local offices, it's often more difficult to keep track of each candidate and his or her specific policy positions. Party affiliation is an important and significant piece of information who might otherwise just be taking a stab in the dark.

Again, taking Ohio as an example, there are too many judgeships to vote for and judges are restricted in the types of public statements they can make. So how do you decide? Especially below the Supreme Court level -- such as appeals court and common pleas court -- it's very common for people just to vote for the incumbent because it's a name they recognize. As a result, it's quite common for incumbent judges to go unchallenged for re-election.

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