I recently came across a recent blog post entitled “Dictatorship is Coming to Your County!” by Jodi Grace. I have subscribed to her blog feed and see many of her articles, and I appreciate her passion for limited government.
Her latest subject is Senator Mike Cierpiot’s S.B. 16. The official summary is as follows:
This act requires any county political party committee to use weighted voting in all matters before the committee by giving each committeeman and committeewoman a number of votes equal to the proportion of vote cast in the jurisdiction from which the committeeman or committeewoman was elected for the person who won the political party’s nomination at the most recent gubernatorial primary election or state auditor primary election, as the case may be, and multiplying that number by two. Weighted voting shall not be used for the purpose of nominating candidates for elections to fill vacancies in county offices.
Ms. Grace is very concerned with the potential implications of S.B. 16, as she should be. Thomas Jefferson is often attributed with saying, “the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” We should keep a watchful eye on what our elected officials are doing, especially when they want to change our electoral processes, which is often a topic of conversation today.
Setting aside the ad hominem used in the post, let’s look at the subject at hand and deliberate.
I believe the issue Senator Cierpiot is trying to find a solution to is one that I recognized several years ago when I worked for the Missouri Republican Party. I spent a good deal of my time assisting counties in organizing and working to fill their committee positions. Many things could be more consistent between counties and how they draw their wards, precincts, and townships.
Jodi mentions, “Every committee person gets one vote. This means that every township/precinct has the same amount of representation – just like the senate.” However, if Jodi took a more in-depth look at how townships are drawn, she might arrive at a different conclusion.
Senate Districts in Missouri each represent approximately 181,000 residents. There’s a small amount of variance between each district, allowed by statute, but they are roughly the same size. This is different with wards, precincts, and townships.
For example, Cole County has five wards and six townships.
The five wards in Jefferson City are reapportioned by population in the latest census. I asked a Cole County Commissioner if the county does the same with the townships, and they do not. They reapportion the east and west commission districts by population, but the townships hold no value in government and are merely organizing areas for election purposes, nothing more. They are not apportioned by population. No elected government official represents a township.
So, unlike Senate districts, the townships in Cole County don’t have equal representation on our county committee. I assume this is likely true of at least one other of our 115 counties, if not more.
Republican political county committee members only represent some people in the ward, precinct, or township. They represent only the republicans. If we did reapportion each township by population, more is needed to completely solve the problem.
As we don’t have party registration (Representative Dan Stacy files legislation to enact this each year) in the State of Missouri, we have no clue how many actual republicans live where. At best, we can use a recent election to determine the number of republicans or democrats in a given area.
We could use a primary election, but it is well known that far fewer voters vote in the primary than the general and that some votes for any particular party candidate could actually be of an opposing party or an independent.
We could use a general election with a more significant number of votes, but we still have the issue of crossovers. It might be the best method to determine party votes, but it could be better.
If we only review the five wards in Jefferson City, which have a fairly equal population, the republican votes in the US Senate election last November result as below:
As you can see above, Even though Wards 2 and 3 have very similar populations, Ward 3 has over four-times as many republican voters.
Senator Cierpiot’s method is trying to solve the issue that each committeeman/woman represents a different number of political party members than the next by a creating a system I believe resembles corporate shareholder elections. Individuals often get to vote on company business and have a number of votes equal to the shares they hold.
I’m not entirely sold that S.B. 16 is the solution, but I understand the underlying issue, and it deserves a respectful conversation.
In my opinion, political parties are private organizations, and committee selection or even primary nominations shouldn’t be shouldered by the taxpayers. Parties should either determine their own methods or pay for an election if it is their chosen route.
I would caution against comparing a party apparatus with the government. They are not synonymous. Political parties engage in the process of selecting government officials, but they are not the government. Attempting to apply our rules for the government on private organizations and political parties can create outcomes we may not desire.
All-in-all, I would gamble that Senator Cierpiot appreciates a constructive conversation on the issue. If you have ideas to improve his suggested solution or would like to provide reasons we should be cautious, I recommend you reach out to his office and respectfully share your thoughts.
“Honey catches more flies than vinegar.”
Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash