Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Joke of ‘Non-partisan’

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Joke of ‘Non-partisan’

It is high time Virginia changed its election laws to eliminate the requirement that School Board elections be "non-partisan." This requirement is truly one of the biggest jokes in election law.

Truth be told, a candidate for a School Board seat is extremely unlikely to be elected without an endorsement by a political party. The mechanism that makes this possible relies in principal part upon the general ignorance of voters. Candidates seek the endorsement of a political party even though the party affiliation does not appear on the ballot. Why do they do this? The reason is simple: If a candidate has obtained the endorsement of a political party, that party prints out sample ballots to be handed to voters at the election site and those candidates who have obtained that party's endorsement have their names appearing on the sample ballot as the people who the party recommends should receive the vote. Ignorant voters, who may not even have previously known who is running for office, carry that sample ballot into the voting booth and vote for the endorsed candidates.

Ilryong Moon has been a member of the Fairfax County School Board for longer than Marion S. "Mayor for Life" Barry, Jr. was mayor of the District of Columbia. Prior to this year, he received the endorsement of the Democratic Party and his name appeared on their sample ballot. This year, the Democratic Party did not endorse him. Interestingly, the Democratic Party requires those seeking its endorsement to sign a pledge stating that if they do not receive the endorsement, they will not run for the position. After Mr. Moon did not receive the Democratic Party endorsement, he resigned from the Democratic Party and rumor has it he is considering running for re-election to his at-large position as an Independent. If he does so, he will not appear on the sample ballot of the Democratic Party but, there is concern among Democrats that he will siphon off enough votes from the candidates endorsed by the Democratic Party, given that he is well-known, to permit more Republican-endorsed candidates to be elected.

The pledge the Democratic Party requires possible endorsees to sign, that they will not appear on the ballot if they are not endorsed by the Democratic Party, puts the lie to the notion that School Board elections are non-partisan. To the contrary, they are extremely partisan. Is anyone surprised that Karen Corbett Sanders will be endorsed by the Democratic Party and have her name printed on their sample ballot?

Given the great influence sample ballots have on who gets elected and the way political parties control the process by requiring the above-described pledge, it is well past time for Virginia to concede the obvious and amend its election laws to permit party affiliation to appear on the ballot.

H. Jay Spiegel

Mt. Vernon