Letter: It’s time to end at large voting in commissioners races
When Grand County holds district elections for our county commissioner seats, we do so by having a county wide “at large vote.” There are three evenly populated districts in the county, roughly laid out as District 1: Tabernash, Fraser and Winter Park; District 2: Granby and Grand Lake; and District 3: Hot Sulphur and Kremmling. These are diverse communities and are what make our county so great.
What we see election after election is that none of that diversity makes it to the commissioner level because of at large voting and how it fails to provide fair representation. With the current system, a candidate does not need to win a single vote within the district they are running for yet with enough votes countywide they can win an election. We have seen this scenario happen in previous elections.
In the 2016 election for District 1, voters within the district voted for Andy Miller with 1,763 votes versus 1,235 votes for Rich Cimino. The citizens in District 1 voted by an overwhelming 43% margin to have Andy Miller represent them yet Rich Cimino had enough votes from communities outside of the district to win the seat. I ask you, is this fair representation when a community clearly chooses a representative and is ignored? Imagine if the U.S. were to have a presidential election but the whole world got to vote? Eventually communities become disengaged after seeing their favored candidates lose election after election. We see uncontested commissioner races because the fix is in no matter how much local community support a candidate can garner and any accountability at the ballot box is gone.
At large voting is worse than gerrymandering, and because of this, it was banned by Congress for all federal elections in 1965 with the passage of the Voting Rights Act. I believe that Grand County should do the same and change commissioner elections to district only voting. I don’t think it’s too much to ask that if you are going to represent communities and a district that you at least win the majority of the votes within that district.
Unfortunately, state law will not allow counties with less than 70,000 people to use another system so I propose a simple agreement. Once the vote is counted and if a candidate does not win the majority of the vote within their district, they congratulate the candidate who did and drop out of the race knowing with a clear conscience that they respect the voters within their community.
— Chris Michalowski, Granby
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