Evanston aldermen voted Monday to ask voters next March whether the city should conduct local elections on a nonpartisan basis.

In practice Evanston has conducted elections without partisan labels for decades. But officials discovered after a controversy about filing deadlines during the 2017 campaign that the city apparently never conducted the referendum required by the state constitution to switch a municipality from the default partisan, or party label election model, to the nonpartisan option.

Of the eight aldermen present for the discussion, only Alderman Tom Suffredin, 6th Ward, voted against putting the referendum on the ballot.

He had previously indicated he favored having an in-depth discussion about the merits of partisan versus nonpartisan elections before holding a referendum.

However discussion at the meeting indicated that the referendum alone would still leave confusion over the city’s election procedures — in part because of a referendum voters approved in 1992 that calls for holding a mayoral primary any time two or more candidates are seeking the office.

That could leave mayoral candidates with different filing deadlines than candidates for alderman and city clerk.

The City Council voted to schedule a special meeting later this month to try to come up with an approach that would further simplify the process.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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