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For the week of April 18 through April 24, 2001

Council endorses designated-seats elections

Motion to repeal dies without second

Express Staff Writer

Ketchumís election debacle is over.

A three-month deliberation came to and end Monday night, when Ketchum City Council members declined to second a motion by Councilman Maurice Charlat to repeal an ordinance that changes the way the city conducts its elections.

"Some people are saying the old system is not broken. I disagree," Councilman Randy Hall said. "I think itís broken. This new system just creates a level playing field."

In the November election, city council candidates will be required to run for specific council seats rather than at-large for two available seats as has been done in the past.

Late in January, the council voted, with Charlat absent, to waive three readings of the ordinance and to adopt the new election procedure. Charlat was clearly against the change, as were about a dozen outspoken residents who descended on city hall to protest the councilís hasty vote.

Council members, apologizing profusely for the quick nature of the January vote, decided to hold three hearings on the subject to gather public comment.

Monday night was the third hearing and was the first time anyone other than council members turned out to support the new election procedure.

Public comments, however, were still overwhelmingly in favor of the previous, at-large system.

"Your job is to listen to the will of the people," Ketchum resident and Planning and Zoning Commission member Rod Sievers said. "An overwhelming majority of the people want the old system. I urge you to listen to that."

Ketchum resident Annie Corrock amassed approximately 60 petition signatures declaring the signersí discontent with the designated seats system that was adopted in January.

"We all understand that you have a difficult job, but the public has spoken," she said.

Ketchum resident Sandy Strong, who made her first appearance in the debate Monday night, told the council they might not have heard comments in support of the designated seats system "because itís a no-brainer."

"I have always been very alarmed at this (at-large) voting method," she said. "I hate the thought that both of my votes donít count."

Arguments for and against the two voting systems basically boiled down to a discussion on so-called "bullet votes," which occur when people casts only one vote when theyíre asked to cast two.

In Ketchumís 1999 election, 27 percent of the voters cast "bullets." That is a number that was simply too high for those who spoke in favor of the designated seats system.

For councilmen David Hutchinson and Hall, the number indicates some kind of organization behind Ketchumís "bullet" voting.

"Itís just fundamentally unfair," Hutchinson said. "I just donít think votes should count unequally."

Hall said the trend seems to be upward, with more voters casting "bullets" each election.

"Voters are learning to play the system," he said.

Councilwoman Chris Potters, who has stayed on the fringe of the arguments for most of the three hearings, said change isnít as much bad as difficult.

"Iíve come to believe that either way will work," she said. "This isnít something thatís cast in stone forever. I think the new system is worth a try."



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