Should We Let Local Candidates Identify a Political Party?

A yard sign from a past campaign for Jamestown City Council member Steve Brubakken. John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

Currently in North Dakota county and city-level elected officials are supposedly non-partisan. Which is a bit of a joke. Those candidates have opinions and philosophies they bring to governance, just like politicians at any other level of government. Calling them non-partisan isn’t really accurate. Many of them are quite partisan (or ideological, or whatever term you like).

HB1375, introduced by Rep. Scott Louser (R-Minot), would change the law to require that partisan affiliations for local candidates be listed on the ballot.

This wouldn’t require the candidates to choose a partisan affiliation. They could still identify themselves as independents. But it would allow those who want to advertise an affiliation to do so.

You can read the full bill below (it makes a number of tweaks to the code, mostly updating language) but here’s the pertinent change to section 40-21-07 of the Century Code related to cities:

And the changes to section 40-21-08 for city election ballots:

The bill would also remove the prohibition on mentioning partisan affiliations in county elections.

The term “partisan” has become something of a pejorative in modern politics, but political parties do serve an important purpose in the American system of government. They allow candidates to coalesce (very imperfectly, these days) around a platform of ideas and philosophies so that the label of a particular party comes to mean something.

It can be easy to be cynical about those meanings, but the bring a level of transparency to political contests as well.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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