It’s a bad idea to let local officials take elections away from the voters.

It’s a bad idea to let local officials take elections away from the voters.

Here’s the problem: In Missouri, local school, fire and water districts can skip holding an actual election if the number of people filing is the same as the number of positions to be filled. The candidates simply assume the office.

On the surface, that makes sense, right? Save the money, time and hassle. But think about it for a minute.

First of all, it eliminates the possibility of write-in candidates. That’s not a small thing. What if important, game-changing information about a candidate on the ballot comes to light between the close of filing and election day? What if a write-in candidate – or five – steps up? It can happen, and the voters should be the ones to sort that out. We’ve seen write-in candidates get enough votes to swing an election and occasionally enough votes to win. That shouldn’t be dismissed.

The second worry is more destructive to the idea of good government. What if two people are running for two spots on the local school board and a third is thinking about it? School officials pull that third person aside and say, look, if you run you’ll just cost the taxpayers money because we’ll have to have an election. There are reports of that happening around the state, and it’s sure not hard to imagine. That’s simply not right. This is why we hold elections, to have candidates meet with people, state their points and hear those of the voters. The more candidates, the better the give and take. Let the voters decide.

There’s a bill in General Assembly to reverse this ill-advised law.  It’s House Bill 1403, sponsored by Rep. Stanley Cox, R-Sedalia.

Elections are fundamental to self-government, and their cost is almost infinitesimal compared with other government functions. Besides, Buckner recently saved money – and massively increased voter participation – by having a mail-only election on a levy increase. There are ways to keep costs under control. The point is that the voters should see a ballot clearly stating who will working for them in local government.