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Henderson passes resolution opposing partisan elections bill in General Assembly

J. Tyler Franklin

A local government in western Kentucky has passed a resolution opposing legislation in the General Assembly that would make local elections partisan.

The Henderson Board of Commissioners approved the measure on Tuesday objecting to SB50 that would make city, county, and school board elections partisan. A companion bill has also been filed in the House.

Mayor Brad Staton said having party affiliations on the ballot invites assumptions about candidates.

“If we put a label about someone on a ballot, that doesn’t tell me anything about what that person believes. It just tells me how they’re registered," Staton told WKU Public Radio. "It’s almost as if we put their skin color on the ballot and then believe their skin color tells us certain things about who they are, which we all know that’s not true either.”

Existing Kentucky law gives local governments the ability to have partisan elections, and all but six of Kentucky's 415 cities have opted to keep local races non-partisan.

“When we’re forcing people to be partisan here at the local level, it invites a lot of the national chaos that comes with party friction. I don’t think it’s necessary," Staton said. "I’ve never had to vote on anything at the local level that had to do with guns, abortion, or any of these hot-button issues.”

Staton says forcing municipalities to hold partisan elections is overreach by the state legislature and erodes the Home Rule statute that allows cities to act independently of the state in many areas, including taxation.

Supporters of the bill in Frankfort say it increases candidate accountability and transparency.

Henderson joins a growing list of cities, including Fort Wright and Independence, that have passed resolutions objecting to the statewide legislation. The Elizabethtown City Council will consider its own resolution at a meeting next week.

Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum. She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years. Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville. She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky. Many of her stories have been heard on NPR.