For possibly the first 30 years I was eligible to vote, I voted in every election and for every office. I do not recall ever voting for a straight party ticket. I tried to learn as much as I could about every candidate.
Eventually, I stopped voting for certain offices. I consider these offices administrative or elective in nature.
Let’s look at the county coroner office. Many, if not most, in Indiana have no qualifications to make them able to complete or even understand an autopsy. This is usually delegated to a pathologist under contract with that county to provide such services. Many coroners simply administer the process of death investigations.
Other offices that should be appointed rather than elected include clerks and treasurers.
These offices should be hired as employees of the government administrator (mayor, county administrator, etc.). If their job performance is sub-par, then it is up to the administrator to correct the action or terminate the employee.
If voters still are not happy with that official’s handling of management of employees at election time, then voters may vote against the elected official.
Continuing to have these offices be elected is a waste of taxpayer money. Ballots would be much shorter without these offices. Training for newly elected officials would be much less.
Another reason I did not vote in this year’s election was that, in order to save money, election officials sought, and received, permission to cancel voting in all but the 5th District in Greenfield. I see this as an act in what has become a regular occurrence in Hancock County in recent years. The election is determined, most of the time, in the primary election. After that, there is seldom an opponent in the general election. The Republicans win every election.
When we first moved here, this was not always the case. There was an active Democratic Party in this county, and they sometimes won a seat in one office or another.
Not that I think party affiliation makes much of a difference at the local level. In fact, I am not certain it makes a difference at any level anymore.
I view the two parties as Demicans and Republicrats, two sides of the same coin. Neither party fields candidates who have much in common with me. Remember the story about every person in Congress now being a millionaire? That was every person, Republican and Democrat.
Much was made, before this election, of the idea that every vote counts. I believe that. But how does it count? If there are no candidates worthy of my vote, do I vote just to say I voted? I have grown tired of holding my nose and voting for the least smelly candidate. I cannot remember the last candidate who really got me excited enough to want to participate.
So what is the solution? Or maybe there is more than one solution. To start with, when there is an office with only one candidate, why can’t there be a No Confidence selection? In races where there is more than one candidate, let’s institute a selection called None of the Above. Of course, we would need to make certain there is a process for continuing the current office holder in the position until a candidate is elected.
There are only 14 states with open primaries in the United States. Indiana is not one of them. It rankles me that I must declare a party in order to vote in the primaries. I believe I have the right to vote for people of either party or even a person who declares no party affiliation in our primary system. And open primaries might encourage a third party to participate in elections. And this might give us choices we have not seen before.
We could look at the way other democracies elect their public officials. We are one of the oldest and largest democracies in the world. That does not mean we cannot learn from others.
I think there are other things that could be done to improve our election system. I also believe that improvements, which mean change, have to happen in order to allow people like me to take full part in our electoral process. And isn’t this what it is all about, getting more people to vote?
Jim Matthews has been a citizen of Hancock County since 1988. Jim was a Young Republican but has not been a political partisan for many years. He can be reached at email@example.com.