Our View: Hatch Act has no place
March 13, 2010
Archaic, unreasonable and unfortunate are just a few of the descriptions — and the nicer ones, at that — that have been used recently to describe the Hatch Act, a federal law that suddenly has become a factor in our community and others regarding November's election.
Written in 1939 and amended in 1940, the Hatch Act restricts political activity of people employed by state or local agencies who work in connection with programs financed, at least to some degree, by federal money.
While the act clearly is not new, its presence on Moffat County politics is.
Through a chain of events, Moffat County Commissioner Audrey Danner — herself a candidate in November — researched the act and had meetings with candidates (whom she hasn't named) in regard to their candidacies and the federal law.
What we know for certain is that two people — coroner candidate K.C. Hume and county clerk candidate Lila Herod — were directly impacted by the Hatch Act.
Hume, a Moffat County Sheriff's Office investigator, withdrew from the race, and Herod, deputy county clerk and elections supervisor, resigned from her position to remain eligible for the election.
The Editorial Board has several thoughts on the Hatch Act and its application to our community's political landscape.
First, board members agree with what seems to be the prevailing sentiment around the community, which is that the Hatch Act makes no sense for smaller communities, where qualified, willing candidates are sometimes hard to find.
Next, the board urges the federal government to address the act. Coincidentally, one such proposal exists: House Resolution 2154, introduced in April 2009 in the U.S. House of Representatives.
It proposes to exempt communities with populations of less than 100,000 from the act but currently is sitting in the House committee on oversight and government reform.
This bill, the Editorial Board thinks, needs to be pushed through, if not for this November, than to preserve the integrity of future elections in our community and also community service.
In today's age, when political involvement for many is sporadic at best and non-existent at worst, our society doesn't need laws making it tougher for people to serve.
We need to make it easier, and have less federal interference and more local control is a reasonable way to approach doing just that.
While some question Danner's actions regarding Hatch Act information — questions that are not without merit — that subject is debate for another time.
As it stands today, our community is hamstrung by a foolish bill that, granted, had its time and place when originally conceived.
Today, however, it's done nothing but cause problems for one county commissioner, place other candidates' eligibility under the microscope, and most importantly, given future candidates reason to pause when considering bids for public office.