Switch to partisan elections in Johnson County halted

A controversial proposed change to the Johnson County charter will not move forward to the Johnson County Board of Commissioners.

On Monday, in a 14-9 vote, the Johnson County Charter Commission said no to a recommendation to put partisan elections on the ballot.

The county made the switch to nonpartisan elections in 2000 on the recommendation of the last Charter Commission, which meets every 10 years.

Commissioner Jean Wise, who served on the last commission and is vice chair of this board, said that although she wasn’t surprised the proposal failed, she expected a closer vote. Wise voted against the proposal this time after proposing the switch to nonpartisan elections last time.

“I think it has worked well,” Wise said.

Wise pointed out that all cities in Johnson County hold nonpartisan elections to select their local officials.

The proposal failed without much discussion. While some members of the commission voiced a desire to talk about the proposal, more wanted to simply move forward with a vote. The decision to simply move forward was also decided with a vote.

“Individuals seem fairly entrenched in their beliefs,” Commissioner Jody Kramer said.

Commissioner Bernard Bianchino, who proposed the change, hoped for some discussion before the vote.

“I just thought it’d be good for voters to be able to tell us if they liked one system over the other,” he said.

Ronnie Metsker, chairman of the Johnson County Republican Party, said voters should have the right to say if they prefer partisan elections over nonpartisan elections.

Dolores Furtado of the League of Women Voters disagreed and said the current system brings out competent and serious candidates.

The Charter Commission also voted down a proposed rule change that would have allowed nonpresent members to vote, and it proposed changes to the relationship between the Johnson County Board of Commissioners and the parks and library boards.

The issues garnering the most discussion Monday were not up for votes, but they will be at the Nov. 21 meeting: a proposal to allow voters to roll back county real estate property tax increases and a proposal allowing for citizen initiative to put the option of retaining or repealing the local option sales tax on the ballot.