The Shawnee city commission recently discussed the city's conflicting charter language on the timeframe of elections and when city commissioners take office, but they also touched on how ward commissioners are chosen by voters.
Currently, candidates must live in the ward in which they are seeking office, but voters in the entire city limits can vote in all Shawnee city commission races, no matter which ward they live in and which ward seat is up for grabs.
But Commissioner Lesa Shaw shared with the board Monday that she wants city commissioners elected solely by constituents in the ward they represent, rather than the entire city.
Three other city commissioners at that meeting — James Harrod, Dub Bushong and Darren Rutherford — openly voiced reservations about such a move.
Harrod noted that the commission is accustomed to running in city-wide races because it's difficult for people to realize they are restricted by ward boundaries. He also said a change would be an added hardship on the election board.
Ward boundaries can be confusing, and most people, unless a need arises, may not even realize they live in a specific ward and often don't know who their specific city commissioner is. And sometimes, neighbors across or the down the street might be in an entirely different ward.
In a city the size of Shawnee, every voter, no matter what ward they live in, currently has a say of who represents them on the Shawnee city commission.
It should remain that way.
And while having a representative who lives in a ward gives residents someone from their ward to interact with and be their voice, every city commissioner is — and should continue to be — tasked with representing the city and all of its residents equally and fairly, no matter where they happen to live.
Ultimately, though, any proposed change on how city elections are conducted would have to be first passed by the city commission in order to take the issue to a vote of the people.