Louisville Evansville Courier Press has a sloppy editorial up which is critical of the election law that requires “no election may be held” for those races where a municipal candidate is unchallenged.
The editorial says the law is “the height of nonsense and makes no sense.” It further states that the law is “silliness” and “ridiculous.”
In terms of saving money, it’s true, that the savings aren’t huge; but they aren’t non-existent either. There are some savings in labor as well. The better justification for the law, in my mind, is that it highlights the lack of a choice in the election. It underscores that a vote in such a “race” is mostly illusory. There is probably some blame to go around in why there isn’t a lot of choice in a good number of races.
Let’s start with the obvious: sometimes the office holder is doing a good job, and no one is too excited to replace him or her. Then there are politically stacked localities, where the political affiliation is so skewed that the primary is effectively the election. And, we shouldn’t forget ballot access restrictions which make it tougher for third parties and independents to get on the ballot.
But, putting an uncontested candidate on the ballot doesn’t really change this lack of choice. In some ways, it’s lipstick on a pig. The uncontested “election” benefits from its association with real elections between more than one candidate where the voter is actually choosing something — this is the bedrock of democracy. So, we feel good about putting a mark next to the uncontested candidate of our choice (or not putting a mark there). But it’s a stretch to say that you’re actually accomplishing much of anything by doing so.
By taking the uncontested candidate off the ballot, the General Assembly also isn’t fixing the underlying problems associated with lack of effective choice between candidates. And, it’s not saving much money. So, for my part, I can’t say the policy choice is compelling either way. But, the Courier Press’s hand waving declaration that the law is “silly” “nonsense” (and “makes no sense”) reminds me a little of the Meat Council film in the Simpsons:
Jimmy: Uhh, Mr. McClure? I have a crazy friend who says its wrong to eat meat. Is he crazy?
Troy: Nooo, just ignorant.