Commentary: Fewer Choices, Better Democracy

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, August 8, 2008

When The Sacramento Bee reported recently that no candidates had filed to run for more than a dozen local elected positions in Sacramento County, would-be candidates began flooding the elections office with calls. “What office can I run for?” the callers wanted to know.

So what’s worse for democracy - a shortage of candidates or a candidate who runs for office, any office, just because no one else does?

The problem isn’t a lack of candidates. It’s too many elections. And the solution is pretty simple. Cut the number of elected office holders, especially those obscure special district office holders: water boards, fire boards, and park and rec boards. Let county supervisors appoint these boards. They have a professional staff to vet the candidates. Voters don’t.

Don’t get me wrong. These boards perform important functions and spend significant amounts of public money, but they operate largely in the dark. Even the most conscientious voter cannot possibly know all the candidates running nor the issues facing the local – water board, for example.

So give voters a break. Don’t make us choose. We don’t know enough. When it comes to water, fire and park boards, let county supervisors, people we’ve already elected, decide.


Ginger Rutland writes for The Sacramento Bee opinion pages.