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Round three in the ward debate

By Staff | Oct 22, 2010

It is an easy yes or no answer.

The problem is, it isn’t an easy yes or no question.

At least, that is what several members of the Blue Earth City Council say about the ballot question concerning wards.

Councilman John Huisman was upset enough to question who wrote it.

Huisman says he was expecting the question to read as a simple question.

Something like, “Do you want to keep the ward system in place? Yes or no?”

That is definitely not the way the question reads.

Here is the way the question about keeping the wards, or eliminating them, is written on the ballot:

Section I

Section 1.03 Ward boundaries, is hereby stricken and deleted in its entirety and Section 1.04 shall be renumbered as Section 1.03 accordingly.

Section II

Section 2.02 Elective Offices, shall be amended by the deletion of the entire Section and by its replacement with the following:

Section 2.02 Elective Officers. The elective officers of the City of Blue Earth shall be seven (7) members of the Council including the Mayor and five (5) members of the Board of Public Works. All shall be qualified voters of said City. All elective officers shall be at-large elective offices. All elective officers of the City of Blue Earth will serve terms of four (4) years. Terms of the Mayor, Council members and the Board of Public Works shall continue as currently elected and elections shall be held for the vacancies created by the expiration of all terms by general election.

Shall the proposed new charter amendment be adopted? Yes, or No?

That is what the ballot reads. You can see it for yourself on the sample ballot printed in last week’s Faribault County Register, or go to the Secretary of State’s website where you can see every ballot in the state.

Is the question confusing? Darn tooting it is.

Is it necessary to have it printed the way that it is? That is what the powers that be say.

Both the city administrator and the city attorney explained to Huisman that the ballot question must be worded in this manner in order to be legal.

They say that the whole newly proposed amendment change to the city charter has to be a part of the question on the ballot.

In other words, you are not voting whether the ward system should stay or go, you are actually voting whether the city’s charter should be changed, from specifying a ward system to specifying council members be elected at large.

Personally, I agree with the council.

It would have been oh so much easier to just ask, “Do you want to keep the ward system, or don’t you?”

But, that is not the way it is going to appear on the ballot.

The simple solution? Just remember this.

If you want to do away with the wards, and have all of the council elected at-large, then vote yes. If you want to keep the present system, then vote no.

Or, don’t vote at all. Because a non vote on this question is the same as a no vote, or so the authorities say.

If you go to the polls and pick up a ballot and don’t vote on this ward question (perhaps because you find it too confusing to understand which way to vote) you are actually voting no.

The ward question has to pass by 51 percent or more of the people who go to the polls on election day in Blue Earth.

Confused now? Probably.

First you have to decide if you feel you want to keep the wards or not. Then figure out if it will eventually mean Blue Earth will only have one member on the County Board.

Finally, you have to go to polls and pick up a ballot, read it, and try to stay focused on how it is you want to vote.

Remember, yes means the wards are going away, no means the wards stay in town.