The majority of the Livingston County Board of Commissioners is opposing potential changes to Michigan election law.

The Michigan Association of Counties or MAC is considering supporting potential changes in election law that would require those running for the office of County Commissioner to do so as “non-partisan” on the ballot. The language regarding nonpartisan county elections was passed by the MAC Board of Directors in June and states that MAC supports "Legislation that gives county boards of commissioners the option to make all county elected officials nonpartisan." Livingston County is a dues paying member MAC. The majority of members on Livingston County’s all-Republican board oppose the change and adopted a resolution expressing such during Monday night’s meeting. The resolution states the proposed change is not needed because candidates already have the option to run as an independent candidate on the ballot. It further states preventing disclosure of a candidate’s party affiliation needlessly restricts and censors information voters have traditionally relied on to help them select a candidate who shares their values.

Commission Chair Don Parker currently serves on the MAC Board of Directors and is the MAC Region 4 director. The measure could be amended or voted down during the upcoming MAC Annual Conference in August. Parker told WHMI if someone wants to run for county office without party affiliation that option is already available to them – so it’s not a question of denying a route for someone to pursue elected office in a way they desire. He says they believe this county is well served by having county officials run with party affiliation and the resolution reflects that. Parker said someone’s party affiliation may not be dipositive in how someone decides to vote – and he’s not saying that all Democrats or all Republicans think alike - but it does give a basic level of ideological understanding of where a candidate is coming from in terms of the ideological spectrum and thinks that’s worthwhile. He feels the resolution is in line with what people voted for last November in passing Proposal 3 that brings back straight party voting. Parker said if county offices are removed from the partisan side of the ballot, he thinks there will be a lot of under-voting in county elections due to people who pull the straight party lever but don’t finish on the non-partisan side of the ballot.

The resolution opposing the change was originally presented by Commissioner Wes Nakagiri at a recent Committee meeting. Nakagiri told WHMI he believes it will be beneficial at the annual meeting for Parker to have a resolution in hand showing the county opposes what MAC is doing and feels it adds more to the argument. Nakagiri said he likes to give voters as much information as possible and thinks that voters have come to rely on partisan labels no matter what party affiliation. He added he feels hiding or restricting that information from voters takes away information they can use to make a decision and he’s not a fan of doing that.

Commissioner Kate Lawrence was absent from the meeting and Commissioner Gary Childs was the only dissenting vote. Childs previously stated he feels candidates need to make the effort to express their views so voters are not making their decisions solely based on party affiliation. He said if candidates run nonpartisan, then they will have to appeal to everyone and not just “their base” - adding he felt in some counties, it only matters what letter is behind a candidate’s name on the ballot. (JM)