Friday, January 6, 2012

The confusing way to choose a chairman

A spectator in the crowd at Thursday’s Allegan County Board of Commissioners meeting leaned over to me and asked, “What are they doing?”

“Electing a chairman,” I whispered.

The spectator shook his head and said it was all too confusing.

The process of electing the chairman — Mark DeYoung, who was also chairman last year — is a complex task at the county level.

First, county Clerk Joyce Watts opened the meeting. Then the board elected a temporary chairman — this time, Commissioner Jon Campbell. Each person had to get up from their regular seats and physically occupy the center chair. Campbell then asked for nominations for the permanent chairman.

DeYoung and Commissioner Dean Kapenga were nominated.

The board had to decide if it would vote by show of hands, written signed ballot or written unsigned (secret) ballot. First, it was to be written signed ballot, then, by the suggestion of Commissioner Max Thiele, it became a secret ballot.

Two commissioners were then appointed to collect and count the ballots. They were sworn in by Watts. After the ballots were counted and DeYoung declared the winner (no totals shared), the papers were given to the clerk.

Believe it or not, this was a walk in the park compared to last year’s choice which took five attempts. Ryan Lewis at The Allegan County News described last year’s voting debacle:

“DeYoung's eventual election followed four other attempts. Three came back with the votes for DeYoung and Kapenga tied at five and one commissioner explaining on his ballot that he did not want to vote for either candidate on the slate.”

Read the entire description of last year’s voting at

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