Hillsborough commissioners will allow voters to decide if they want non-partisan elections in the races of five county officials.
Commissioners voted Wednesday to hold a referendum in November. The proposal would affect races for county sheriff, clerk of the court, property appraiser, tax collector and supervisor of elections.
The vote was 5-2 along party lines with Republican commissioners in favor of nonpartisan elections.
Republicans said it would benefit a large number of registered independent voters who can't vote in closed primaries. Commissioner Al Higgenbotham, who suggested the referendum, said he wants to eliminate the decisiveness that comes with partisan politics so voters judge candidates based on their political records.
But Democrats see the proposal as a move to confuse voters who vote based on party affiliations.
Hillsborough County Clerk Pat Frank, a Democrat against the proposal, said candidates that have no party affiliation get fewer votes during elections.
"There's a drop off there. And I think it's because the voters don't have any insight into who the candidates are when they say they're nonpartisan," Frank said.
Hillsborough Property Appraiser Bob Henriquez, also a Democrat, offered a different perspective. He said he doesn't have a problem with nonpartisan candidates because there's nothing "partisan in nature" about his office's work.
"I think any of us [candidates] are willing to run however because we're really going to run on our record, as having run offices efficiently and effectively," Henriquez said.