By Len Lazarick
Montgomery County legislators continue to advocate many proposals to encourage people to vote, such as same-day voter registration. But one of the most daunting aspects of voting in Montgomery County is the ballot itself.
Above, thanks to delegate candidate Jordan Cooper on Facebook, here is a sample Democratic ballot in District 16, showing over 120 names. (A third page with a few more Board of Education candidates appears to be missing.)
Only the 378,000 Democratic voters in the county get to vote on a primary ballot this long.
The 152,000 independent and third-party voters get a much shorter ballot, since they are only allowed to vote on the non-partisan race for school board. They do not even to get to vote on the judges, since the judges run in both the Democratic and Republican primaries, but not in a non-partisan race. The legislature has not chosen to fix this exclusion of independents, who outnumber Republicans in Montgomery County.
If the goal is to get more voter participation, and every single elected official in Montgomery County is a Democrat, why not have an “open primary” as exists in many states and let all voters, regardless of party, vote in whatever party primary they want? Why should only Democrats get to choose the county executive, county council members and legislators?
To cut down on the number of candidates on the ballot, why not raise the small filing fees and require candidates to collect signatures as is done in many states? This might reduce the number of names on the ballot.
Why should all voters and non-voters as well be paying to run an election for the party central committee? Aside from their role in selecting replacements for seats that become vacant — in which they often select a fellow member — the key role of the central committee is to elect members of their own party.
A shorter ballot in which all Montgomery County voters could take part might mike a dent in low voter turnout there.