When voters take to the polls for state and national elections, they can see which party the candidate is affiliated with right on the ballot. But for local and county candidates, all you see is a name.
A legislator has introduced a bill at the State Capitol that would change that.
“It’s certainly not a bill to create partisanship. It’s a bill to create transparency for the voters,” said Assistant House Majority Leader, Scott Louser.
Louser introduced House Bill 1182 earlier this month.
The bill would allow candidates to place their party designation next to their name.
If it sounds familiar, that’s because a similar bill failed at the last legislative session. But this time, it would be optional.
“I’m sensing that has a lot more support. There’s still opposition but the opposition is primarily coming from locally-elected officials that don’t want to declare their party affiliation when they’re running for office. And, that alone, should be concerning,” said Louser.
But some local elected leaders say the bill would do more harm than good.
Minot Mayor Shaun Sipma says at the local level, voters should be focused on what someone’s priorities are, not what party the candidate is affiliated with.
“If you take a look at the school board, you take a look at the park board, the county and cities, any of those boards, it really would put some folks at a disadvantage that may be able to lend their skills and their talents very well to their community if, in fact, they happen to be one of the parties that isn’t in the majority right now,” said Sipma.
Louser argues that because city officials have the ability to tax properties and sales, as well as spending taxpayer dollars, voters should know his or her political stance.
“I would hope that voters don’t vote simply because somebody’s affiliated with a party. I think it’s up to the candidate to earn their vote. But I also think the voter should know who the candidate is and what they affiliate with at the very basic level,” said Louser.
“I think a candidate is very well judged and based on how well they do on the issues rather than what party they represent,” said Sipma.
If the bill does pass, candidates running at the local level would still be in the same place on the ballot, but would now have the option to list their party declaration next to it.
“We’ve seen some of the struggles when it comes to party politics. Let’s keep local, local and focused on the issues,” said Sipma.
Early March is when the bill will head to the Senate if it passes the House.
If you would like to have your testimony included before the bill is heard on the floor, Louser recommends emailing your legislators within the next two to three weeks.