County election board makes it official: No general elections in Bloomington except for District 2 and District 3

After two separate votes on Thursday afternoon, the chair of Monroe County’s election board, Carolyn VandeWiele announced, “You have your ballot, Karen!” The remark was directed to election supervisor Karen Wheeler, who can now continue the process of printing Bloomington’s ballots for the city’s Nov. 5 general election.

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Monroe County Election Board, Aug. 1, 2019. From left: deputy clerk Tressia Martin; chair Carolyn VandeWiele; and Larry Barker. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

No ballots will be printed for Bloomington elections in District 1, District 4, District 5 or District 6—because there are no contested races in those districts. Just the names of the candidates in contested races will be printed on the ballots in the other two districts.

In the District 2 city council race, Democrat Sue Sgambelluri, who won the three-way  primary, will appear on the ballot with Republican Andrew Guenther, who was unopposed in the Republican primary.

In the District 3 city council race, Democrat Ron Smith, who won the primary, will appear on the ballot with independents Nick Kappas and Marty Spechler.

Not appearing on the District 2 and District 3 ballots will be candidates for the uncontested citywide races: Democrat John Hamilton for mayor; Democrat Nicole Bolden for clerk; and Democrats Susan Sandberg, Jim Sims and Matt Flaherty for council-at-large seats.

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Shown are the two districts where Bloomington city elections will be held on Nov. 5 this year, with the names of candidates who will appear on the ballot. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Confining Bloomington’s elections to just District 2 and District 3 was not controversial among the three members of the election board. Other members of the board on Thursday were Larry Barker, the Republican Party member, and deputy clerk Tressia Martin—she was serving as proxy for Monroe County’s clerk, Nicole Browne. They were persuaded by the argument based on cost. It will cost significantly less to hold elections just in two districts.

VandeWiele said she was unpersuaded by the idea that holding citywide election would encourage people to vote in 2020, saying the reason people will vote in 2020 is because of the presidential election. She also said the idea of voting “to make a statement” didn’t make sense to her.

Expressing her preference for citywide elections during public commentary was the sole candidate for city clerk, incumbent Democrat Nicole Bolden. She said she would like to have the opportunity to vote or not to vote for a particular person, saying, “It’s part of the democratic process…”

But if elections are held only in District 2 and District 3, Bolden said, she would prefer that only names of candidates in contested races appear on the ballot. Bolden said it would be unfair to offer only some voters the chance to vote for citywide candidates. Bolden said she hated the idea that her mother would be able to vote for Bolden, but her daughters could not. Bolden said her youngest daughter was looking forward to voting in her first city general election, and had been looking forward to the chance to vote for her mother—but she’d told her that probably wouldn’t happen.

Bolden said she’d talked to the candidates in citywide races whose names could either appear on ballots or not depending on the board’s vote—if the board voted to hold elections just in District 2 and District 3. The consensus in that case, Bolden said, was to print only the names of candidates in contested races.

During his turn at public commentary, Republican city council nominee in District 2, Andrew Guenther, agreed with Bolden’s position on printing just the names of candidates in contested races on the ballots. However, he supported confining the elections to just the two districts with contested races.

After settling on elections in just two districts, the board took up the question of which names to print on the ballots. Before the time for public commentary, Barker and Martin said they wanted to print all the names on the ballots. Martin said she felt that candidates who’d worked hard to earn a nomination would want to see their names printed on the ballot.

Forming the minority view at that point was VandeWiele, who said she thought just candidates in contested races should have their names printed.

After hearing from Bolden and Guenther, Barker said he was persuaded by the fact that candidates themselves preferred that only contested-race candidates have their names printed. Martin said she was still in favor of printing all the names. VandeWiele said the state statute required a unanimous vote of the board on the question. Martin then relented, voting in favor of printing just the names of contested-race candidates.

Also decided by the election board on Thursday afternoon was a reduction of the early voting period from four weeks to two weeks. The reduction is allowed under state statute for a municipal election. Board members pointed to likely low turnout as the reason to reduce the window. So early voting will go from Oct. 21 through Nov. 4 this year.

The cost analysis for citywide elections compared to just District 2 and District 3 goes something like this. Each polling station gets staffed with an election inspector, two judges and two clerks apiece for each of the poll books, Wheeler said. And each polling station is equipped with at least two poll books, for minimum staff of seven per station.

Election judges and clerks are paid per day at a rate of $135; the inspector is paid $165. They all get a meal allowance of $25. The total compensation for judges, clerks and inspectors for a citywide election would be at least $20,475, based on minimum staffing for each of 21 polling stations. That compares to $8,775 for the nine polling stations that would be used for elections, if they there held just in Districts 2 and 3, a difference of almost $12,000.

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One thought on “County election board makes it official: No general elections in Bloomington except for District 2 and District 3

  1. One of the worst decisions ever made in local government, it will haunt the Election Board for years.

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