As the 114th Congress begins session on Jan. 6, I think it is important to take a look back at the process behind the 2014 election. Westport has always been a town of committed voters -- this past November, 62 percent of registered voters in our town went to the polls in the mid-term elections, the highest in Fairfield County. Accordingly, our government owes Westport's dedicated voters the privilege of authentic elections.

In my eyes, an election that is truly representative of the people is one that appoints the candidates we support to public office, free of the fingerprints of competitive party politics. Step one in that process is removing party affiliations from election ballots.

From my initial experience working for a Westport Democratic campaign, I can confirm the abundance of voters who simply vote across the Democratic ticket or across the Republican one without hearing the individual candidates' policies. With party names listed on the ballot, specific policy positions that can differentiate each candidate are buried beneath party politics. Generally, Connecticut is a Democratic state -- our Congressional seats and the governorship all are held by Democrats -- but that does not mean we need to rely on party affiliation. A candidate is are much more than a member of a national party.

Especially in a liberal state like Connecticut, with the presence of more moderate opposition parties, party labels can be deceiving. For example, gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley's supposed "radical" Republican philosophies in Connecticut pale in comparison to the truly radical policies in places like Kentucky and South Carolina.

In truth, Foley's policies drifted farther to the left than most Republicans: he was pro-choice and pledged he would keep the gay marriage legislation in place if elected. I am not suggesting Tom Foley should have been elected, but his moderate social philosophy was hidden beneath his "Republican" cloak. I've noticed this is a common trend: moderate Republicans are alienated from registered Democrats by the Republican moniker. The same is true for Democrats. That's not right. Sometimes candidates ascribe to all the policies of their party, but sometimes they don't -- and it is those instances of individuality that should be brought into the limelight.

Removing party affiliations from ballots can enhance every part of the election experience moving forward. First, the campaign will be amplified by the increased dialogue with voters seeking to learn about the candidate's policies. As a result, the voters will be more aware and elect those most aligned with their values, assuring the officials that they represent the true desires of the public. Even if voter turnout decreases in the early years, which it likely would, those that come out to vote would be increasingly dedicated and aware until this policy became ingrained in Westport's voter culture.

I believe that this idea is a symbolic step towards greater political awareness, and I'm confident that it would set a precedent for more towns and cities across the nation.

Michael Bass

Westport