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Published: 3/1/2007

Some want nonpartisan village voting

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Rick Van Mooy, retired superintendent of North Baltimore schools, and others said nonpartisan voting could save money on primary elections. Rick Van Mooy, retired superintendent of North Baltimore schools, and others said nonpartisan voting could save money on primary elections.
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North Baltimore Mayor Ned Sponsler is among those advocating nonpartisan voting status to save the village money. North Baltimore Mayor Ned Sponsler is among those advocating nonpartisan voting status to save the village money.
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NORTH BALTIMORE - Rick Van Mooy is a Republican, but he doesn't think that has much to do with running for clerk in this southern Wood County village.

He, like Mayor Ned Sponsler, plans to run as an independent in November. And both men say they would like to see all village officeholders run for election free of party affiliation as a way to save the village the expense of primary elections and, possibly, to encourage more people to run for office.

"I haven't seen in the three years I've been doing this that there have been any decisions that would have changed because someone was a Democrat or a Republican," Mr. Sponsler said.

According to the Wood County Board of Elections, North Baltimore is the only village out of 21 in the county that holds partisan elections. City charters in Perrysburg, Rossford, and Northwood call for nonpartisan elections, leaving Bowling Green and Fostoria as the only cities that have partisan races.

Harold Bower, a councilman in North Baltimore since 1982, said that at one time council members in the dominant party tended to elect the council president. Nowadays, he's not even sure who's a Democrat or a Republican.

"We have issues that the public may favor or not favor, but I don't see any splits by party lines," he said, adding that he too favored going to nonpartisan local elections.

Mr. Van Mooy, a retired North Baltimore schools superintendent, said he was circulating a petition earlier this year to get his name on the May ballot as a Republican until he started doing some research on the issue.

"It would be silly," he said. "I think there's no point in forcing the village to have a primary for the clerk's office, which could get expensive."

When a municipality holds a primary, it foots the bill - a fact that officials are taking more seriously now that Wood County has gone to electronic voting. While a primary in North Baltimore once cost around $1,600 to hold, Elections Director Debbie Hazard estimated that bill now would be closer to $6,000 because of the computer support required for the touch-screen voting machines.

For May's election, the point was moot because there were not enough candidates to necessitate a primary for village office seekers. Two Democrats are running for two council seats, while no one filed for the mayor's or clerk's jobs.

An income tax for North Baltimore schools is on the ballot, so the school district will pay for the primary, Ms. Hazard said.

Mr. Van Mooy recently asked village Solicitor Chet Marcin to look into whether council could make local elections nonpartisan, but the answer was less than encouraging.

Ohio law states that villages with fewer than 2,000 people are to hold nonpartisan elections, while villages with more than 2,000 people - North Baltimore has 3,361 - are to hold partisan elections. The only way to change that is through a citizen's initiative.

"It's not up to council is the key," Mr. Marcin said. "Any council member could, as a citizen of the village, initiate the issue to get it on the ballot."

Neither Mr. Van Mooy nor Mr. Sponsler said they would do that, but they're hoping someone else does.

"I would like to see it change," the mayor said.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-353-5972.



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