When voters head to the polls, Addison officials want to make sure people know what they’re getting with each candidate.
At its April 15 meeting, the township board voted 6-1 to oppose giving townships the option to create non-partisan ballots for their elected positions, which include supervisor, clerk, treasurer and trustee.
Treasurer Lori Fisher cast the lone dissenting vote, meaning she would support other townships having the option to have a party-free ballot for local offices.
The board’s vote was the result of a request of the Michigan Township Association (MTA).
The MTA is considering sending legislation to the state legislature giving townships the option to create, or not create, non-partisan ballots for township elected offices. Before it takes a stance, it wants a pulse from its members, which includes Addison.
If legislation is pursued by the MTA, the matter would ultimately be decided by the state legislature. This would only apply to local elections, not national or state offices.
“It does matter what we do here, because it’s going to go back to Lansing (in regard to) what we vote,” said Clerk Pauline Bennett.
All seven board members indicated they would not favor such a ballot in Addison. Trustee Jacob Newby started by saying political parties simply make it easy for voters to feel like they’re making an informed decision. It should be noted that all seven members of Addison’s board were elected as Republicans.
“I think a party shows a general sense of ideals and most people realize who generally aligns with them in an election,” Newby said. “It’s easier for people to vote.”
Trustee Linda Gierak expressed the same opinion near the end of the discussion.
“When most people go and vote and they have a ballot in front of them, they’re looking at all of the non-partisan people and a lot of the time they have no idea who they are or what they stand for and they skip it,” she said. “They don’t really know. The ones who are running for non-partisan roles but show party affiliation, you know straight tickets, and they’re comfortable saying ‘Well, they have the same values I do.’ Whether that’s good or bad, I don’t know.”
Newby later added that if someone wanted to show no party affiliation, they could run as an independent. He, along with others, felt a party shows people the kind of person they’re electing.
“Some of the things the conservative party, the Republicans, believe is limited government, fiscal responsibility, low taxes and, I guess, gun rights,” Newby said. “I think our residents would want to know where their elected officials stand on those issues.”
Supervisor Bruce Pearson echoed that sentiment, saying, “you’ve got to give the people some information.”
“As far as I’m concerned, I do like it to be partisan only because that tells you what party and what you’re actually running on… I myself think it should be you’re a Republican, a Democrat, independent, whatever,” he said.
Trustee Erich Senft, who ultimately opposed the option, made the argument that it’s more about values than party affiliation.
“The main thing that I go back to is core values,” he said. “That’s the key words in my opinion. The words ‘key values’ (are) not partisan in my opinion. It’s the right thing to do at the right time… That’s what I heard when I went door to door – not what party I was affiliated with but what’s the right thing to do.”
Fisher, on the other hand, said while she is not sure it would be a good fit for Addison, she thinks it should be up to communities to decide what’s best for them.
“We’re not voting on it for Addison right now, we are voting on whether or not other communities in Michigan should be able to do this,” she said.” So, I think it wouldn’t affect us so much but I think to other communities that use it, it may be of value to them. I don’t have a super strong opinion either way.”
Though she was for giving the choice to individual communities, Fisher sees the benefit of having a party affiliation.
“You have to pick sides,” she said. “Unfortunately, that’s the way it is in America with two parties and I think it does hold you accountable, at least, to what you said you were going to do and what you stand for.”
Bennett later talked along similar lines, saying for non-partisans, “nobody really knows what your core values are” and that while she gets where the idea is coming from, it’s not something she wants to support.
“It does give the local control that I’m always fighting for,” she said. “But, if it ever came here, no way.”
Pearson ultimately summed up the opinion of most, if not all, of the trustees, saying “people like to know what they’re voting for when they vote for a person.”
Addison’s vote, in opposition to the legislation, will be counted among all other MTA members.