Hopkinsville Mayor Wendell Lynch vetoed the Hopkinsville City Council’s 6-5 vote that would have approved nonpartisan elections for city council and mayoral candidates. The council approved the ordinance Tuesday despite public outcries to hold off until after the pandemic.
Lynch said the public is not ready for elections to become nonpartisan and feels the community must be educated on the topic before it can be put in place.
“My purpose and my reason for vetoing in prefaces was because it’s become obvious to me that the public is not ready for that decision to be made yet without them having an opportunity to be involved,” he said. “And what that looks like obviously could be us having open meetings, allowing them to educate themselves or to be educated through a committee process that really helps people to understand what it means.”
If the elections were to become nonpartisan, a voter’s party affiliation would not hinder them from voting for a candidate in a primary election. Each candidate’s party would not be on the ballot.
Without ward-designated primaries, it’s possible for the entire council to be from one area of a town. However, in this ordinance, only residents of a respective ward would be able to vote for their council member in the May primaries.
The two candidates with the highest number of votes in each ward would be on the general election ballot for that ward, instead of each top Democrat and Republican candidate.
In the general election, the whole city would be able to vote for each ward’s candidates.
According to the Kentucky League of Cities, Hopkinsville is one of seven Kentucky cities still holding partisan elections. Madisonville still holds partisan elections as well.
Lynch is afraid that if the city council doesn’t allow the people to educate themselves on the topic and then make elections nonpartisan, it could create distrust and disformity within the community.
“On top of that, I closely catalogued our Facebook following,” Lynch said of the comments on Tuesday’s live-stream of the meeting. “And there’s overwhelming data in those Facebook posts that indicates that they’re not ready, they want more time and they want the opportunity to express their own views.”
Hopkinsville City Council will have the opportunity to override the veto in the near future if it is put on an agenda, but the council must obtain a majority vote for the override to occur. If the override were to succeed, it wouldn’t go into effect until the 2022 city council election.
Lynch said it is important that elected officials are the people’s voice and must be willing to listen to what the people have to say.