Wednesday, November 16, 2011
DALLAS -- When Danny Jaffer, a co-sponsor of Ballot Measure 27-105, first looked at elections returns shortly after 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 8, he was surprised by what he saw.
The ballot measure seeking to make Polk County Board of Commissioner positions nonpartisan was winning by a very wide margin.
"My first thought was `Wow, we did better than I thought we would,'" Jaffer said.
Election night results had the measure winning 75 percent to 25 percent.
The measure eliminates party affiliation for BOC candidates and opens primaries for all voters, regardless of what party they are registered with.
Dave Weston, who cosponsored the measure with Jaffer, was equally impressed with the outcome.
"I didn't really know what to expect," he said. "I'm very happy with the result."
Weston, Jaffer and the dozens of petitioners who helped collect signatures to put the measure on the ballot perhaps shouldn't have been surprised at the win.
"Almost everyone we asked to sign the petition signed it," Jaffer said. "We had a pretty good idea it would pass, but this was beyond what we thought."
While the turnout was only about 30 percent, the pair believe the overwhelming victory attests to the popularity of the idea.
"First and foremost, this affirms for me that this is something the electorate really wanted," Jaffer said. "It also confirmed for me that you don't have to be in elected office to get something good done for the county."
Weston and Jaffer each ran for BOC office in 2010. As candidates, they both were asked by voters why the BOC seats were partisan while other county- or city-level offices weren't.
As a result of those inquires, Jaffer, a Democrat, and Weston, a Republican, both came to the conclusion that the system needed to change.
They said opening primaries to the 25 percent, or about 10,000 voters, not registered with a major party in Polk County was the main reason they sponsored the measure.
"This is a positive change for the county," Weston said.
Changes will take affect in the 2012 primary election.
Polk County Commissioner Jennifer Wheeler is the first of the three current commissioners who will seek election under the new system. Wheeler was appointed in April to fill the rest of former commissioner Mike Propes' term.
She's already filed for re-election in 2012, but will have to refile as a nonpartisan candidate.
To Wheeler, that's the only difference between the BOC position being nonpartisan as opposed to partisan.
She said she won't revise her campaign strategy and doesn't believe the shift will alter the way the BOC serves.
"This is what the people want and it doesn't change anything for me," Wheeler said.