What happens when no one runs for office?

Published: Oct. 23, 2019 at 6:15 PM EDT
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As election season draws near, Washington County voters may be surprised to see how few choices they have for their elected officials.

Bigger towns like Belpre and Marietta have a few more options, but even several of the city positions in both places have multiple candidates running completely unopposed. And many small villages have no one running for some positions at all.

“I think a lot of it has to do with being very tired of politics in general. The conflicts that are going on nationally, I think play a big role,” said Washington County Republican Executive Committee Chair Mike Webber.

Washington County Democratic Chair Willa O’Neill thinks some people don’t want to run for office because for many people it’s a high stakes low reward system. She also said a lot of people don’t want to be under the microscope of the public eye.

“They are very low paying positions that require a lot of dedication to public service,” said O’Neill.

But according to board of election officials, there’s more money to it than apathy.

“Well we do have several seats in our villages in the county and mostly they’re not running for them because they can be appointed by the rest of the council that’s still on, and so that way they don’t have to come in here and fill out a petition and pay a filing fee,” said Director of the Washington County Board of Elections, Mandy Amos.

Village councils require a $30 filing fee and ten signatures to run. That may not seem like a lot, but for some, it’s a deal breaker.

“Where we do see a problem is out in the villages, where there isn’t much pay for the board of public affairs or the councils, and in those cases a lot of times, what they make a decision to do is not actually to run on the ballot, so they don’t have to pay the petition fee and then after the election is over with, they just reappoint everybody,” said Deputy Director of the B.O.E. Peggy Byers.

If no one runs for an elected position, whatever related governing body already in existence appoints someone to that position.

“Really it’s always wonderful when the voter has a choice. Maybe somebody needs to look at the situation and something could be done where maybe we eliminate the fee or at least reduce it. Something to that effect,” said Byers.

“People tend to be just a little too comfortable and don’t see a reason to spend their time on the community and I think that’s a loss that we all have,” said Webber.