There was an election last Tuesday. Did you notice? The Democrats held a primary to select candidates for the November elections. Regardless of your party affiliation, or lack thereof, you paid for it.
According to Goochland County Registrar Frances C. Ragland, the election cost the county $15,562.98. That breaks down to $38.05 for each of the 409 ballots cast.
This is shameful. Both parties are accountable for this sorry state of affairs. There is no reason why political parties cannot run their own elections. To make things even more absurd, Virginia has open primaries, which means that any registered voter can vote in any election, which only provides opportunities for mischief. In the 2007 republican state senate primary, lots of democrats probably voted for incumbent Walter Stosch. In the 2008 Democratic presidential primary, republicans are believed to have cast ballots for Hilary Clinton.
Surely, the parties can figure out how to select candidates without dipping into public funds. In 2001, republicans in the 56th district held “firehouse primaries” to choose a candidate for delegate.
The ballots were counted by trusted party members overseen by representatives of each candidate. It was a fair and open process with a minimal cost. It also provided an additional opportunity for party members to be engaged in meaningful political activity.
The General Assembly refuses to change this policy. The parties would rather use their money for annoying television commercials, tree killing mailings and endless robo-calls than funding primary elections.
Goochland, like other localities, can find better things to do with $15,562.98 than pay for partisan elections. It would be nice to be able to keep the convenience centers open seven days a week; shorten the replacement cycle for sheriff vehicles and school buses; or hire more teachers. Those items have meaning to the life of the community. Partisan elections do not.
The General Assembly repeatedly derails efforts to remedy this issue, yet it has time to pass massive transportation tax increases without first fixing VDOT. Forcing localities to foot the bill for partisan primaries is a glaring example of an unfunded state mandate.
Virginia is a Dillon Rule state--localities have only the powers that the state gives them—so the only way out of this mess is to tell our legislators that political parties should pay for their own elections.
Goochland County is represented in the Virginia House of Delegates by Lee Ware DelLWare@house.virginia.gov, and Peter Farrell DelPFarrell@house.virginia.gov. Our State Senator is Tom Garrett email@example.com. Visit virginiageneralassembly.gov to see the entire list.
If our political parties are not sufficiently trustworthy to devise fair mechanisms for candidate selection, they have no business participating in the political process.