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Georgetown moves to primary system to choose candidates

January 02, 2019
The Town of Georgetown is changing the way its candidates are chosen for the primary election.

During the town council's regular meeting on Dec. 17, Councilman Chris Loop introduced ordinance G-18-14, which establishes a method of nomination for a candidate for town hall office by primary election.

"The Town of Georgetown currently uses a caucus system, which means instead of having candidates on a primary ballot, each party, Democrat or Republican, holds a caucus before the fall election to pick who their candidates would be in the general (election)," Loop said. "Having participated in a couple of those, I can tell you that participation from the public is limited. I feel like it is a good idea to move our elections to a primary system so that more of the public has a say on who ends up on the ballot in the fall."

Loop said that he ran for the town's clerk-treasurer position in 2011 and won the caucus. However, only 30 people showed up and participated in that caucus.

"The (recent) Democrat caucus had 163 people show up, which was better participation, but if you look at total number of voters in Georgetown, it's still not great participation," he said.

Loop said the ordinance would hand over the responsibility of the primary election to the Floyd County clerk.

"In talking with Kristi (Fox, the town's attorney), there could be some expense involved if the county clerk bills us for putting that on," he said. "I don't know exactly what that expense would be, but they would be in charge of location, bringing their machines out and that kind of thing. Whatever the expense is, I think giving people the ability to participate in that process is to facilitate the election of this body … it's probably a nominal cost, and we've got the money to do it.

"More people could be involved and have a say in who they want their candidate to be in the fall," he continued. "And that doesn't matter what party you're voting for. I just think the caucus system will have less participation out of it."

Loop said that while caucuses do have to be advertised in the local newspaper, "Not everybody reads the newspaper. Everyone knows when election day is."

Per state statute, Loop said the town could only change how it nominates candidates in a primary election once in a 12-year period.

"So, if we adopt this, that's the way it's going to be for the next 12 years," he said. "With that being said, I would make a motion that we approve G-18-14."

Councilman Josh Cavanaugh seconded the motion, and the first reading was approved 4-1, with Councilwoman Kathy Haller against.

In order to pass the ordinance before the new year, the council had to hold a special meeting to pass the second reading.

The ordinance was approved with another 4-1 vote, Haller against.

The council will conduct its annual organization meeting this evening (Wednesday) at 6:30 at the town hall.

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