ANN ARBOR, MI - Ann Arbor is one of only a few cities in Michigan that have partisan elections, along with Ypsilanti and Ionia. Jane Lumm, the only non-Democrat on the 11-member Ann Arbor City Council, is once again pushing for a switch to nonpartisan ...
ANN ARBOR, MI - Ann Arbor is one of only a few cities in Michigan that have partisan elections, along with Ypsilanti and Ionia.
Jane Lumm, the only non-Democrat on the 11-member Ann Arbor City Council, is once again pushing for a switch to nonpartisan elections so candidates for mayor and council would run without party labels.
Since she can't get support from enough of her colleagues to put the question to city voters, she's now calling on residents to take on the task of collecting thousands of petition signatures to put a citizen-initiated proposal on the ballot.
Lumm issued her call to the community Monday night, July 2, after her council resolution to put the question of nonpartisan elections on the November ballot fell one vote short of being approved. The vote was 6-5 in support of it, but it needed seven votes to pass.
Those favor of putting the question to voters as a proposed city charter amendment were Anne Bannister, Jack Eaton, Sumi Kailasapathy, Lumm, Chuck Warpehoski and Kirk Westphal.
The five against it were Mayor Christopher Taylor, Zachary Ackerman, Julie Grand, Graydon Krapohl and Chip Smith.
Taylor argued having partisan labels on the ballot is incredibly useful information for voters and helps communicate a candidates' values on a variety of social, environmental and other issues.
Krapohl, D-4th Ward, said he thinks election reform should come from the people, not the council.
Ackerman, D-3rd Ward, said these are trying times and the Democratic label is critical in the Ann Arbor community. In Trump's America, he said, he wants a litmus test for candidates.
Lumm served on council as a Republican in the 1990s and now serves as an independent. With the city's recent switch to holding elections in only even years with four-year terms, it's now going to be harder for anyone who isn't a Democrat to get elected in Ann Arbor, in large part because of the amount of straight-ticket Democratic voting that goes on in even years when state and federal races are on the ballot.
And that effectively makes the August Democratic primary the deciding election in most cases, often with Democratic primary winners advancing unopposed to the November general election. Lumm wants to shift it so the November general election, when turnout is higher, is when voters really decide between candidates.
"Turnout is significantly higher in November and that serves to strengthen democratic representation," Lumm said, arguing voters should be given a chance to decide the question. She said it's a question voters haven't weighed in on since the 1950s.
With nonpartisan elections, if there were no more than two candidates who filed to run for a seat, there would be no August primary, just the election in November. But if three or more nonpartisan candidates filed for a seat, there would be an August primary with the top two vote-getters advancing to the November election.
"Party labels don't really inform voters on the key municipal issues," Lumm said. "Ann Arbor is a perfect example of that. We're all Democrats except me, but there are certainly philosophical differences among the Democrats and different positions on key local issues like zoning and development. Everyone's a D, yet we have spirited debates, which demonstrates that simple party affiliation isn't a very useful differentiator or predictor at the local level."
Grand, D-3rd Ward, said one question she often hears from residents when she's campaigning door to door is, "Are you a Democrat?" She said the label means something to people.
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