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Changing way commissioners run for office discussed
Bouldin, Carl D.jpg

Should Warren County’s district commissioners be divided into separate categories for election purposes? That idea was discussed last week and quickly hit a census snag.

On Tuesday evening, Commissioner Carl D. Bouldin presented a resolution to “create separate and distinct offices within each multi-member district of the Warren County Legislative Body” to members of the county Policy and Personnel Committee. 

“I’m in the 12th District so I’ll use that as an example,” said Bouldin. “Those two commissioners would be 12A and 12B. It matters not to me if I’m 12A or 12B, because 12A has no more authority that 12B does.”

The Warren County Commission is composed of 24 members, with two members elected from each of the county’s 12 districts. The change proposed by Bouldin would not divide the 12 districts, nor reduce the number of commissioners. 

It does mean election ballots would contain separate voting categories for the candidates in that district. Those candidates must select a specific category in which to run.

“Currently, if there are six people running in one district, the top two vote-getters get it,” said Bouldin. “Everyone of us knows that a lot of voters only use only one of their votes. They have somebody that they are related to, friends with, or it’s their favorite commissioner.”

Having two categories, said Bouldin, would urge people to use that second vote and would make incumbents more accountable for their actions while in office.

“If someone is not happy with the job I’m doing, when they go to qualify to run, they will quality to run against me and me only. They won’t run against the other commissioner in my district.”

After Bouldin outlined what he called the positives in creating two categories in each district, committee members added what they referred to as negatives.

“This is a political hit and that’s all it is,” said Commission Ron Lee, who believes categories would make it easier to oust someone from office for not voting with the majority. “What you’re going to do is target someone who doesn’t vote like you do. Voters decide who the top two are. We don’t need to worry about ‘A’ and ‘B.’ How we do it has worked great. I, personally, think this is a political hit job lining up. If Ron Lee doesn’t vote the way he’s been told to vote, we’re going to get him out.” 

Commissioner Steve Glenn says voters already hold commissioners accountable, and if individuals vote for their favorite commissioner and waive their second vote, they will likely continue that pattern if given two separate categories. 

“I’ve talked to some people in my district and they’re against this,” said Glenn. 

Commissioner Tommy Savage voiced concern for losing qualified candidates and creating confusion among voters who are unaccustomed to having two offices in one district, to which Bouldin admitted that education would be required for candidates and voters.

A motion to endorse the measure when it’s presented to the full Warren County Commission failed 4-1. Commissioners Savage, Lee, Glenn and Tyrone Sparkman voted against it. Commissioner Steven Helton voted in favor. 

Thursday evening, Bouldin presented the same resolution to members of the county Legislative Committee and pulled it from consideration citing a “valid point” expressed by Commissioner Daniel Owens that the 2020 census could cause major changes to the county’s districts so waiting until after that would be prudent.

The exact date when the 2020 census information will be available is unknown.