GOP Calls on Democrats to Oppose Nonpartisan School Board Elections

March 12, 2008

Jamie Sanderson- Chairman
Georgetown County Democrat Party
1515 Butts Street
Georgetown, SC 29440

Dear Jamie:

Congratulations on your election as the new chairman of the Georgetown County Democrat Party.

As I am sure you are aware, the county school board has decided that their new election plan will be nonpartisan, utilizing the seven existing county council districts plus having two board members elected at-large.

At this point the election plan would have to be approved by the U.S. Department of Justice, and possibly by the county legislative delegation.

The Georgetown County Republican Party has been publicly vocal in our opposition to nonpartisan school board elections. Numerous national studies have shown that nonpartisan local elections tend to result in lower voter turnout, particularly among low income voters, than partisan elections, and favor affluent candidates, who have access to financial resources to fund campaigns in the absence of political party assistance and support.

I will be glad to share these studies with you if desired.

Also, as you may be aware, in 1994 legislation was introduced to make Georgetown County school board elections nonpartisan, but that legislation was opposed by the Department of Justice because of its potential detrimental effect on minority voters. It is our belief that this objection to nonpartisan elections should still stand.

We believe that political parties are relevant to school board elections. Parties generate voter interest in important issues related to education based on our platforms, and as a result increase voter turnout. Party primary elections help to even better define issues between candidates, and greatly enhance voter knowledge of the candidates and issues.

What is extremely disappointing is the complete silence of the county Democrat Party on the issue of nonpartisan school board elections. While the county Republican Party has both written a letter to the county legislative delegation, which was released to the media, and had a spokesman appear before the school board to publicly voice our opposition to nonpartisan elections, the Democrat Party has simply done nothing.

I would like to think the county Democrat Party believes it is relevant to local elections like those for the school board. I know county Republicans are eager to participate in all elections and deliver our message of support for lower taxes, limited government, education reform via comprehensive school choice, and for the sanctity of life and marriage, among others.

I respectfully call on the county Democrat Party to stand with the Republican Party in our support for higher voter turnout, particularly for low income and minority voters, and for helping candidates of lesser means run for office, by publicly opposing nonpartisan county school board elections before it is too late.

Jamie, this issue is simply too important for the Democrat Party to sit on the sidelines.


Tom Swatzel