BY TAKOMA PARK MAYOR BRUCE WILLIAMS
The mayor’s public comments on the city council work-session item to place a ballot question to move elections to even years, September 8, 2015.
We need to continue to encourage participation and involvement in many ways, both through the electoral process, and through other means.
Our rules and processes running elections are very different from other local governments’ and from the state’s.
We have 16 and 17 year old voting, we allow non-citizens to vote, we allow certain felons to vote, we have a five week campaign (which others are very envious of when I tell them about it).
Mayor Bruce Williams.
We have a nominating caucus as opposed to signature petitions–it only takes a nominator and a second to get on the ballot. We don’t have to register with the state.
We use Instant Runoff Voting. Councilmember Tim Male wants us to consider using ranked choice voting on ballot questions.
All of these we can do because we control our own elections process. We aren’t beholden to the state to conform to their process, and I think this has given us the chance to innovate, and to lead the way toward better and more inclusive elections. We lament our inability to control our own destiny in so many other cases–tax duplication, certain zoning decisions, liquor control, state highway control–why would we want to give up control to the state for our elections? Why?
IF we have to follow the state rules, what will happen to IRV? Will we have much earlier deadlines that have to be met, and will that force people to make decisions about possibly running, or organizing ballot questions, many months earlier than is possible now?
Will there be separate ballots and separate voting processes? Given our differences from the norm, I think that is very likely. Will voters have to cast 2 ballots after having stood in 2 lines? Will that increase turnout? Will the cost of elections go up, both for the city and for candidates?
Particularly in the case of candidates, will that make it harder than it already is for working people with families to consider running?
For the city’s costs, will we have to provide election judge coverage to all the early voting locations on all of the dates? Will we have to provide election judge coverage at all 6 precincts in the city? How will we recruit election judges for these duties, when it’s already hard to recruit enough judges to cover one polling location?
For the candidates, will the cost of providing additional materials for voters discourage the candidate’s participation? Will candidates find that getting their message out in a much more crowded environment proves costly? Will voters even find those materials in a much more intense election season? Will voters be better informed?
I think our best option is to continue with the many efforts we have undertaken to increase involvement and participation by all of our residents in all aspects of life in our city. If we are successful at that, then we can consider if we need to take the step of turning over local control of our elections to the state. Let’s go down the path we are already on.