Little choice for voters

Little choice for voters

Champaign-Urbana's municipal elections aren't much to write home about.

Weary of politics after the brutal November presidential election, many voters may consider it a blessing in disguise that the upcoming spring municipal elections will mostly be much ado about nothing.

But since our role is often to play the skunk at the garden party, we once again lament the lack of competition in local government that reduces the idea of voter choice to a joke.

In Champaign, five council seats will be up for election and two township offices — supervisor and assessor. Only one council seat — District 1 where incumbent Will Kyles faces two challengers — and the two township posts are contested.

Over in Urbana, the mayor's office, seven council seats, the city clerk's post and two township offices — assessor and supervisor — are up for election. Competition is a little better in Urbana, but not much.

Mayor Prussing faces a primary challenger from fellow Democrat Les Stratton. The winner will face Republican Rex Bradfield.

None of the seven council seats features a contested race. There will be Democratic Party primary races for city clerk and township supervisor. But the winners of those three Feb. 26 primaries will not have an opponent in the April 9 general election.

Why is there no competition for the Urbana City Council? The seven wards have been gerrymandered by majority Democrats to ensure they win six of the seven seats. Democrats jammed as many Republicans into Ward 6 as they could fit.

Consequently, no Republican dares run in Wards 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7 and no Democrat will run in Ward 6.

Urbana is overwhelmingly Democratic, so it's not a great surprise that most of the political competition is among Democrats in the four citywide races. But gerrymandering the wards to guarantee winning six of seven seats before a vote is even cast is an assault on voter choice.

Democrats may hate competition from Republicans and vice versa. But both parties are better when there is competition because they have to be better to win. Overt efforts to minimize competition, hence voter alternatives, may reduce the noise level but it is not healthy for the body politic.

An earlier version of this editorial incorrectly said there would be a primary election for Cunningham Township Assessor. There will not be.

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jthartke wrote on December 03, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Why does the NG editorial board only use the term Gerrymander when Democrats have safe seats?  Why is that term not used to explain why Republicans control the US House, despite the fact that Democrats recieved more votes nationwide for the House? I would also tend to believe that it is pretty hard to strictly gerrymander a 6-1 majority like the Urbana City Council has.

pattsi wrote on December 03, 2012 at 3:12 pm

We, including me, bemoan the lack of civic involvement as demonstrated by the lack of competitive races, except where a salary is associated with the position. Where is our civil society. Yet, I rarely hear a conversation or am involved in one that discusses why this is the case, how we can change the melaise that hangs over the community, what occurs within the various elected bodies that discourages public participation, etc. There is a bit of an analysis going on related to the problems in Congress, but not here. My question is why not--N-G editorial, organizational meetings, training and mentoring the younger generation to step up to the plate?