Ketchum replaces good election system with flawed one
In Sun Valley’s last city election, three
candidates battled it out for a single seat, while the only candidate to
file for another seat cakewalked to victory.
Instead of being able to choose the best
candidates for two seats from a field of four, instead of benefiting from
the vigorous clash of ideas that contested candidacies can bring, voters
were deprived of a contest.
Yet despite the obvious flaws, the Ketchum
City Council last week decided to replace its healthy winners-take-all
system with the seat-specific one that failed in Sun Valley.
Ketchum’s system wasn’t broke, but the
council decided to fix it anyway.
City council seats are nonpartisan. Thus,
candidates are not required to declare their candidacy for party primaries
that occur in the spring before the November election.
Candidates can put off filing for a city
council seat until the deadline in September. Filing is blind. Under the
new system, unless someone files early for a seat—which is usually not
the case--no one knows who is running for which seat until the deadline
That didn’t matter with a winners-take—all
system. It does now.
It’s how Sun Valley ended up with three
candidates for one seat, and only one for the second.
The Ketchum City Council liked this bad
idea so much that it dispensed with three readings of the new plan and
dispensed with public hearings on the matter. The council decided to
proceed because it said no one was interested
Council members Dave Hutchinson, Chris
Potters and Randy Hall all seized on the rationale that the new system
will make elections issue driven. They made the argument knowing full well
that it had proven to be false in Sun Valley. They changed the system even
knowing that the new one is seriously flawed.
The council argued the new system will
prevent niche candidates from draining votes and defeating otherwise
strong candidates—the Buchanan/Nader effect. Nice argument, but even the
new system will not prevent that from happening.
The system wasn’t broke, but it is now.