The most common question I heard from voters while canvassing in 2019 was “What is your party affiliation?” When I told Ward IV voters that I was a Democrat, the door was typically further opened (both literally and figuratively) as they asked questions about me, felt comfortable telling me about their struggles, and told me what they wanted to see change in their city.
They were energized to learn that someone was running to represent them who shared their values and were excited to learn about the impacts a more representative municipal government could have on their lives. After several of these exchanges, I began introducing myself on doors as a “Juan Marcano, Democrat running for Ward IV on the Aurora City Council”, and I believe that transparency paid off regardless of the affiliation of the thousands of Ward IV residents I spoke with.
Since late summer I have been spending my weekends knocking doors for the Democrats running for Aurora City Council, with a focus on Ward II as they don’t currently have a ward councilmember. A repeat theme from Ward II residents is their perception that the Republican candidate in the race is trying to pass himself off as a Democrat. One Ward II voter I spoke with went into detail about his interaction with the Republican candidate just a few days before. He was upset to find out his affiliation and learn about his answers to the vacancy interview questions. We had a half-hour long conversation about housing costs, food deserts, sustainable infrastructure and development policy, police reform, obstructionism, and his support for Dr. Ryan Ross in filling the Ward II vacancy. Though unaffiliated, he agreed that partisan elections would add a much-needed layer of transparency to our elections.
Due to the design flaw in our current vacancy process that allows Ward II to go without a ward representative, and the lack of transparency in our current electoral process that allows candidates to hide their values from the ballot, I am bringing forward an ordinance in the coming weeks to put a question on the November 2022 ballot to make our races partisan. If approved by the voters, this charter amendment would accomplish two major goals.
- Increase voter information and turnout. It is no secret that Aurora’s off-year, “nonpartisan” races suffer from abysmally low turnout that yield results that are not reflective of the values the city decisively votes for during even-numbered years. Jurisdictions that have switched from “nonpartisan” to partisan elections have seen increased voter turnout due to information being readily available on the ballot, which is a goal everyone should share regardless of affiliation.
- Respect the values voters selected. Partisan positions will allow us to use a similar kind of vacancy committee structure employed for state legislative positions to fill vacancies. This means that the values selected by the voters will stay with the seat until the next election, and council would no longer get to choose who serves with them. This is also a much cheaper alternative to special elections.
The purpose of this amendment is not to enshrine the two-party system that has contributed to extreme polarization in our country, but to shed sunlight on this existing dynamic that is currently hidden by farce of “nonpartisan” races. We deserve an electoral process that is transparent, encourages increased participation in the democratic process, and that protects the values chosen by voters in each election. This charter amendment will accomplish these goals and will deliver a more representative government for all Aurorans.