Marion's ward voters should choose council members

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Charles Knudsen, guest columnist

The form of government of Marion was approved at a special Home Rule Charter election held on Aug. 26, 1975.

Part of that charter states: “The City Council shall consist of seven (7) members. Three (3) of the members, including the Mayor, shall be known as Council members at large; and are to be nominated and elected by the qualified electors of the City at large. One member shall be elected both as Mayor and Council member at large. The other four Council members shall be known as ward Council members; they are to be nominated by the qualified voters in their respective wards, but one from each ward is to be elected by the qualified voters of the City at large in the regular City election. The Mayor shall be elected to the position of Mayor by the voters of the City.”

Yes, in Marion the ward council members are elected at large. They are not elected by just the voters of their respective wards. In each of the past two elections a ward council member won because the Marion City Code calls for at-large voting. If the voting had been only from voters in the ward itself, a different candidate would have won the election.

For a comparison think of this, in Iowa we have 50 senate districts for the state Legislature. We all live in Iowa, we only vote for the senate seat within our respective district. We do not vote for all 50 state senators.

In speaking with citizens around Marion regarding our present city voting system, most have been surprised by the way our present code is written. After discussing this with them, most have agreed with me that ward council seats should be elected by only the voters from the respective wards.

I have sent letters and presented myself before the Marion City Council regarding this issue. I have asked the council what I need to do to get the City Code changed so that only voters within the ward get to vote for their ward candidate.

I have asked if the council has the authority to make this change or if it needs to go to a ballot. I have asked if I need to provide the council with a petition and if so how many signatures would need to be on the petition. I have yet to receive any responses to my questions.

Under Marion’s present City Code, it is possible that all four ward candidates elected could win without ever winning the majority of votes from within their respective wards.

If you are concerned that a ward council person would be more concerned about issues within their respective ward as opposed to issues within Marion as a whole, remember that there are seven voting members on the council. One council member cannot control the council, and as with most things in life, it is always good to have a strong advocate — in this case, a ward council person — looking out for your interests.

If you are a Marion voter and you agree with me that the ward council seats should be voted on only by those living in the respective wards, please write the Marion City Council and state so.

• Charles Knudsen has lived in Marion since 1963. His grandparents farmed just north of Marion. Charles is active with the Boy Scouts of America as well as First Presbyterian Church of Marion. He has one son.

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