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  • Last modified 257 days ago (Feb. 2, 2017)

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To the winner belongs

Every president comes to office with a hand-picked replacement, the vice president, ready to take over at a moment’s notice should the commander-in-chief become incapacitated, resign, or die.

It’s a pardox, that hand-picked bit. There is only one person who truly voted for a vice president, and that’s their president. In a country where the vote of the people is paramount, we’ve willingly abdicated that right for an option that can preserve the continuity of national government.

We almost had a similar scenario right here in Marion County. If commissioner Lori Lalouette had immediately succumbed to criticism and resigned her position the very day she was unceremoniously waylaid in commission meeting, her replacement would have been the choice of a solitary precinct committeewoman in the 1st District.

As it is, Lalouette took time to consider her decision, which gave time to county Republican chairman Todd Heitschmidt to round up about 18 more Republican precinct committee people who collectively will choose her replacement. It will undoubtedly be a Republican. Why would they choose anybody else?

I’m certain these folks will take their responsibilities seriously and make what they believe to be a good choice.

But I’m uncertain as to why it makes much sense to take this decision away from all eligible voters and put it in the hands of a very few members of just one party.

In a regular election, everyone has the right to express their choice for a candidate regardless of party. A special election for a single commissioner district wouldn’t seem to be terribly hard to pull off, giving everyone a chance to weigh in on who they believe will best represent their interests in county government.

But no. To the winner belongs the spoils, that winner being the party. The only thing partisan about a commissioner’s job here is how someone gets elected; in office, it’s far less about politics and far more about personalities.

I’d like to see the system changed. Let prospective replacements make their case publicly to the voters of the district, and let all the voters decide. That’s as American as it gets.

Alas, that’s not going to happen any time soon. It’s a small and rare thing to have to replace a commissioner midterm, and the system suits the party in power just fine.

Our 1st District committee people had nothing to do with setting up the system they now find themselves in. We know they’ll be thoughtful, we know they’ll be sincere, and we know they’ll pick a Republican.

What we hope is that they’ll also take phone calls from anyone. Ring-a-ding-ding isn’t a vote, but it’s at least a way to register a preference in a rinky-dink non-democratic process.

— david colburn

Last modified Feb. 2, 2017

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