Council endorses designated-seats elections
Motion to repeal dies without second
By GREG STAHL
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
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
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"
"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
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."