Municipal Elections – Partisan Elections/Public Funding

Comprehensive economic prosperity can only be achieved within an environment that is politically stable and socially inclusive. Considering partisan elections, public funding of candidate campaigns, ranked choice voting, moving the election cycle to November, and establishing an Election Oversight Board, the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce believes all of the proposed changes are problematic individually, but toxic to our economic wellbeing if implemented en masse.     

 

Through its Election Code Committee, the Fort Collins City Council is considering several modifications to the City Charter regarding the nature, process and substance of municipal elections.  The Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce is monitoring these discussions to identify areas of concern to the business community.  To help illustrate the cumulative impact, the Chamber has highlighted these proposals through a series of articles.  We invite you to engage in the discussion, offer insight and mobilize resources accordingly.

This initial analysis considers two proposals – elimination of non-partisan elections and public funding of campaigns. Future analysis will consider ranked choice voting, shifting the municipal election cycle to November, redistricting, and establishment of an election oversight board.

Though presented as stand-alone modifications, it is far more relevant to consider elimination of non-partisan elections and public funding of campaigns in tandem.

Partisan Elections
Under the current system, all candidates for municipal office are presumed to be unaffiliated with any organized political party.  There are no “partisan slates”, per se, but rather a collection of citizen representatives answering directly to their constituents.

On balance, this assumption is likely correct as most active voters are predisposed to those candidates that support the party platform to which they identify.  In essence, the proposal makes it easier to identify the candidate that best expresses their own viewpoint.

Public Funding of Municipal Campaigns
Elimination of “dark money” influencing elections has been the subject of numerous efforts across the political spectrum.  Currently, candidates for municipal office raise financial support through whatever means available,

Section 7-135 of the City Code prohibits a person from making contributions and/or contributions in kind totaling more than $100 to the candidate committee of any candidate for the office of Mayor. No person may make contributions or contributions in kind totaling more than $75 to the candidate committee of any candidate for the office of Councilmember.

limiting voter access to those candidates with minimal political and financial resources.  In establishing a minimum level of community support, future candidates for local office would qualify for public campaign funding, presumably levelling the playing field for prospective office holders.

Again, on the surface this proposal is presented as egalitarian, though heavily partisan in practice.

Cumulatively, these two proposals will essentially enrich political party structures that thrive upon division of the electorate.  Consider that political parties must now allocate its limited resources to supporting those candidates with the greater likelihood of voter approval.  Should all candidates receive equal taxpayer support, political parties will be free to concentrate resources on the more extreme elements of their platform.  Increased acrimony is not beneficial to municipal harmony.

Equal funding of all candidates, coupled with partisan elections, introduces a future of entrenched interests and exotic sidebars that are not conducive to civil discourse nor economic vitality.

Talking Points: 

  • Proponents of the two measures have not adequately demonstrated the current system is flawed or inherently discriminatory.
  • Taxpayers should not be required to subsidize political parties.
  • Municipal candidates should not be required to align with established platforms – independents have a poor track record of success in competition with party-backed candidates.
  • Financial support of candidates is an elemental right under the freedom of expression doctrine incorporated within the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. That same right allows citizens to withhold support from those candidates to which they don’t align.
  • The purpose of local government is to provide basic services that cannot be easily provided by the private market. Allocating limited resources to candidates for political office should not be considered a basic public service.

 

 

 

Source: Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce
January 2022

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