House Bill Making County Offices Nonpartisan Clears Panel

Legislation that would make county offices in Oklahoma nonpartisan passed a vote of the House Elections and Redistricting Subcommittee on Wednesday.

House Bill 1452, by Rep. Rob Johnson, would allow all registered voters, regardless of party affiliation, to cast a ballot in their local county elections.

“There are two key reasons why Oklahoma needs this change,” said Johnson (R-Kingfisher). “First, when you consider county government’s responsibilities, partisan politics shouldn’t play much of a role. County government deals more with the administration and enforcement of county services and laws. These aren’t partisan issues.

“Second, partisan county elections, by their very nature, often prevent a large portion of the population from voting on county officers. If all the candidates for a particular county office are of the same political party, the race is decided in the primary, and any voter who’s not a member of that party is effectively disenfranchised. This happens regularly in rural counties.”

Pointing to the office of sheriff as an example, Johnson said, “Whether you’re a Democrat or Republican shouldn’t affect your job as sheriff. The sheriff’s duty is to enforce the laws already on the books. A sheriff’s party affiliation should be immaterial to whether or not they can do the job.

“We have nonpartisan judicial elections because judges should be unbiased and not partisan, and because all citizens should have a say in the process” Johnson added. “County officials should be the same way. It just makes sense.”

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