Council Right About Elections

Like many local government officials, Weirton City Council members have had to devote a lot of time during recent years to finding ways to save money.

But during their meeting Monday, council members rejected a plan that could have saved thousands of dollars – and were right to do so.

It had been suggested the city could save several thousand dollars during municipal election years by eliminating primary elections. Extremely low turnout for elections, both primary and general, had been cited.

Following through with that proposal would have required voter approval of a change in the municipal charter. On Monday, council members voted 6-1 not to seek that change.

“You don’t mess with the democratic process just to save a buck,” Councilman David Dalrymple said in explaining his “no” vote.

Councilman Terry Weigel went into more detail. He worried about a

“one-time, winner-take-all election.” He has a point.

Primary elections are held to winnow down fields of candidates so that, on general Election Day, voters are not confronted by large numbers of people seeking the same offices. The primary process avoids general elections won by candidates with small percentages of the total vote.

Council members are seeking charter changes to save money in other ways on elections, however.

One proposal would consolidate polling places, while still providing for three in each of the city’s wards. The other suggestion is to explore whether municipal elections could be held on the same day as state elections.

Both those proposals certainly merit consideration. Again, however, council members were right to reject the idea of eliminating primary elections in Weirton.