A policy issue regarding optional nonpartisan township elections is getting the thumbs-down from Tyrone Township officials.

The township’s Board of Trustees met Tuesday night and discussed the legislative policy issue at the request of the Michigan Townships Association, or MTA. The MTA is seeking feedback from officials of its member communities on legislation that could be introduced that would make nonpartisan township offices optional to townships. Tyrone’s board members briefly discussed the item, but generally agreed that they did not support such an option. Township Supervisor Mike Cunningham says the community’s residents have a right to know what side of the aisle their elected officials are on, adding that the potential legislation would “allow the wolf to get into the sheep’s clothing”.

According to the MTA, township officials have suggested over the years that elective Michigan township offices should be nonpartisan. To be consistent with long-standing policy and bylaws, the MTA’s Board of Directors put the question before the membership at the MTA Annual Meeting in 2012, where it was voted down by the MTA membership in attendance. The MTA, a lobbying group for Michigan townships, want to know where communities stand on the issue so they can best represent them in Lansing, according to Cunningham.

Those that support optional nonpartisan township elections say a change in policy is needed as veteran township officials are at risk of losing elections as their communities shift political party alignments, and that the preponderance of township officials of a certain party compromise the MTA’s influence with lawmakers of the other party. Supporters also say the option would help ensure that township officials are elected on merit, not party affiliation, and that township issues seldom align with political party ideologies. (DK)