GOP Repeats Call for Partisan School Board Election

By Scott Harper- Georgetown Times, March 12, 2008

As they did during last week’s school board meeting, the Georgetown County Republican Party is once again urging the Justice Department and Legislative Delegation to keep the elections partisan.

Now, County Republican Party Chairman Tom Swatzel is asking Jamie Sanderson, the county’s Democratic Party chairman, to join him in this request.

The Georgetown County School Board passed a resolution last week calling for board elections to go from partisan, at-large contests to nonpartisan, district elections using the same boundaries as Georgetown County Council. Under this plan – which must be approved by the Justice Department and the Legislative Delegation – two board members would still be elected at large.

Swatzel, in a press release, said he sent a letter to Sanderson “taking the Democrats to task for their ‘silence’” concerning the proposed change to nonpartisan 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," Swatzel wrote. "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," he said.

Swatzel says national studies indicate nonpartisan local elections tend to result in lower voter turnout, particularly among low income voters. He also said nonpartisan favor affluent candidates who have access to financial resources to fund.

Swatzel notes this has been tried before. In 1994, the Justice Department opposed legislation for the District to change to nonpartisan elections. That decision was made by the Justice Department, Swatzel said, “because of its potential detrimental effect on minority voters.”

So far, the Georgetown Times has not received a response from the Democratic Party.