Guest Commentary: Elizabeth Cunha

Editor’s Note: The Battalion recently offered all the candidates running for public office in the cities of Bryan and College Station as well as Brazos County the opportunity to submit guest opinion pieces. We will be publishing the articles of those who accepted that offer daily between Oct. 26 and Election Day.

Elizabeth Cunha is an instructional assistant at A&M Consolidated High School and candidate for Place 4 on the City Council of College Station in the 2020 election on Nov. 3.

Ever wonder what politics would be like without a two-party system? Look no further than the end of your November ballot. College Station City Council races are nonpartisan. Candidates run without a party designation next to their name; voters must base their decision on something other than a categorical label. Nonpartisan races invite each side of the electoral process, both candidate and voter, to define the platforms and differences reflected on the ballot names.

Voters could choose to research first-hand information. Most candidates have websites that satisfy the instinct to begin any research via Google. Voters can also attend meet-and-greets to talk with candidates personally. Additionally, voters might email or reach out on social media to contact candidates directly. At this level of politics, direct interaction is still possible, even during COVID-19.

There are also plenty of recorded interviews posted online where voters can listen to candidates. WTAW interviews candidates for each race so you can hear the candidates speaking on the same issues side-by-side. Think Brazos, a Habitat for Humanity broadcast, published podcasts on some local races where voters can hear each candidate separately.

Voters could also rely on second-hand information.

Many local groups offer endorsements, although some groups endorse without first interviewing both candidates. It may be prudent to research a particular group’s endorsement process.

The College Station Firefighters Association interviews all candidates before making an endorsement. Having sat for those interviews on two occasions, I testify that those interviews are rigorous.

Likewise, The Eagle interviews all candidates and publishes an article summarizing the interviews as part of their endorsement process. They weigh in on every race. The current race for College Station City Council Place 4 began back at the beginning of 2020, BC, Before COVID-19. It was a small, one race ballot, and The Eagle invested time even in that one race ballot. Place 4 has now, DC, During COVID-19, been placed as a runoff election on the November ballot, and so The Eagle subsequently interviewed and endorsed again for the runoff.

The city council initially slotted the runoff for Place 4 for April, but COVID-19 forced a delay. My opponent spoke in favor of holding it on Aug. 18, before school started. I asked the City Council to include it on the November ballot. You can hear my remarks to the city council asking it to be moved from Aug. 18 due expressly to my concern about disenfranchising student voters here.

Including the race on the November ballot saves the city thousands of dollars by not hosting a small independent election. Placing it on the November ballot allows Place 4 to be offered in 25 polling locations rather than just the two the city had previously designated. Ballot box access is critical in a democracy and so is access to information.

Nonpartisan races demand more of the voter, because there is no party designation next to those names on the ballot, voters must do more research to discern which candidates most align with an individual voter’s vision and priorities. City council affects your today and your tomorrows. Please invest your today to make an informed choice that will most certainly affect your tomorrows. See you at the polls.

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