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Madisonville Considering Non-Partisan Local Elections Like Most Other Kentucky Cities


The Madisonville City Council is considering making its mayor and city council elections non-partisan, which would eliminate those primaries.

City Councilman Mark Lee has led the move. He said most other cities—404 out of 418 in Kentucky—elect their city officials in non-partisan elections.

“We’re not dealing with the kinds of issues that the, quote, Republican position or the Democrat position on national and state issue,” Lee said. “It really bears no relevance to what we do, providing basic services for the people….That was just an unnecessary impossible impediment to people on future city councils being able to work together without regard to what their political affiliation is.”

Lee said saving money isn’t one of the reasons he decided to champion this change. Although he added it will save the county clerk’s office some work, so the workers there are supportive of the measure.

But one of the main reasons Lee has for non-partisan city elections is that most of the them in Madisonville only have two or three people file to run. In the past eight election cycles he said 42 out of 48 elections had two people file and only three people ran in the other six.

“When I discussed the issue with the folks up here at the Kentucky League of Cities, they characterized it as close to a no-brainer that you could get to go straight to the November election given the those number of people who typically file,” he said.

Lee said one city council member had concerns about the measure, citing that the decision should be made in a referendum by the city’s residents. But Lee said KRS statutes state that the city council must decide the structure of city elections.

The city council will vote on the measure at its Oct. 20 meeting. If it passes it will go into effect Jan. 1, 2015, and the city council would not be able to make any changes to the structure of local elections for five years.

The same measure has been brought up during this election season in Hopkinsville, where city elections are still partisan, but city officials have made no formal action to make that change.

Whitney grew up listening to Car Talk to and from her family’s beach vacation each year, but it wasn’t until a friend introduced her to This American Life that radio really grabbed her attention. She is a recent graduate from Union University in Jackson, Tenn., where she studied journalism. When she’s not at WKMS, you can find her working on her backyard compost pile and garden, getting lost on her bicycle or crocheting one massive blanket.
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