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County favors non-partisan ballots

by Western News
| August 25, 2009 12:00 AM

Lincoln County commissioners gave final approval Wednesday to hold a special mail-in election this fall to allow voters to decide if the county should begin conducting elections as non-partisan.

The measure was passed while the commissioners met in Eureka by a 2-1 margin, with Tony Berget voting against.

The special election will be held in conjunction with the mail-in municipal election on Nov. 4, according to county elections administrator Tammy Lauer. If adopted, voters would first see non-partisan ballots in the June 2010 primary.

Lauer and Leigh Riggleman, assistant election administrator, gave a presentation at the Aug. 5 commissioners meeting in Libby about the advantages of a non-partisan county election.

Though Montana law dictates primary elections be held as partisan, the county – with voters’ permission – can choose non-partisan, printing all candidates for the county’s nine elected positions on all ballots regardless of political preference.

Lauer said that voters have complained for years about partisan ballots, but that last year the debate hit a breaking point. The six commissioner candidates all ran as Republican, so Democrat-registered voters were not able to vote for commissioners in the primary.

Berget and other critics of non-partisan elections, such as the Lincoln County Republican Club, believe that it’s important for a voter to know a candidate’s basic ideals.