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City Council Approves Election-Related Updates To San Diego City Charter

San Diego City Hall administration building.

The City Council Monday unanimously approved placing two election-related revisions to the City Charter before voters, the beginning of what could be a years-long series of changes to San Diego's version of a constitution.

When she unveiled her proposals in September, City Clerk Elizabeth Maland said the changes are necessary to bring the charter into conformance with state law.

The first idea is to designate Dec. 10 as Inauguration Day, unless it falls on a weekend, in which case it would be the following Monday.

The charter currently schedules inaugurations for the mayor and City Council members on the first Monday following the first day of December. In 2012, it was Dec. 3.

The problem with the current system is that it would be 27-34 days following the general election, and the state allows county registrars of voters 28 days to certify the results, according to Deputy City Clerk Bonnie Stone, who coordinates elections for the city. The Legislature is considering giving registrars two extra days, she said.

The Dec. 10 date would be 32-38 days after a November election, which would remedy conflicts, she said.

Maland also said the change would also provide more consistency in the length of terms in office, which currently vary depending on how the calendar sets up.

Maland said she also wants the City Charter to allow more time between a special election and subsequent runoff.

The charter currently demands a runoff vote within 49 days, but the time frame of certain state requirements adds up to 84 days, she said.

Maland asked for the City Charter provision to be changed to "within 90 days."

Her proposals will go before voters on the ballot for the June 3 primary election -- a date the City Council officially approved in a separate action Monday night.

Other charter revisions are possible in future elections.

"As we have delved into this effort, we have uncovered many other areas of the City Charter that need to be examined, and it is apparent to me and many others who have been working on these election-related issues that we have just scratched the surface," Councilwoman Sherri Lightner said.

City officials have been saying over the past couple of years that many provisions of the charter are obsolete or out of conformance with state law, and need to be changed. The charter can only be changed in a public vote.

Lightner named the redistricting process as one area that needs attention.

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith told council members in October that the document needs a comprehensive overhaul. He described some of the charter's provisions as "a mess" and a "mishmash" that are vague and filled with holes.

Goldsmith said the process to clean up the charter could take through 2016.

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