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San Diegans To Vote On Changing City Election Rules

San Diegans To Vote On Changing City Election Rules
San Diegans To Vote On Changing City Election Rules GUEST: Andrew Bowen, metro reporter, KPBS

Our top story the San Diego city Council was told this week that city staff had never encountered anything like it or go they were talking about the large number of city propositions on the November ballot and how much the cost will be of printing and mailing election pamphlets. This week the city Council added to the number of propositions on the ballot. Andrea Bowen is here. What are the major propositions the city Council decided to put on the ballot this we? There are a lot of them about a dozen by my count. They include a couple of countywide as well. There are tax on marijuana businesses something that we talked about before. Changes to citizen review board on police practices. Thinks about the deputy attorneys probationary period. Really down to role policy thinks. The two because once have to do with rules about the elections themselves. The first one require all referenda and citizens initiative to be voted on in November not in the June primaries. The second would require November runoffs between local candidates. The top two go-getters in the June elections. The media calls those primary sometime because they coincide with the party primaries for state and federal races but they are really elections because a candidate can win outright into if they get more than 50% of the vote. This happen with Karen Falkner in June and three city council members. The rationale behind this is that the June city elections have had a very low voter turnout in 2012 it was 37% across San Diego County. It was even lower in 2014 at 27%. Just this year we had 50 want to set that was considered high. The turnout in November is always higher. Sometimes it is twice as high in the rationale of city election should be decided in we should elect our Mayor would we know that the most number of voters will be casting their ballots. Support for these propositions as they were voted in the city Council was along party lines? That is right. The Democrats forwarded these two measures onto the voters with their five votes in the four Republicans voted against the. The Republicans had several arguments against them they say it will cost the city more money to hold bigger election with all of these be pushed to November. The candidates will need to raise more money because it will be a longer campaign. Be safe that these measures were rushed and not properly vetted. We do not know for certain if they are legal. One of the issues I think they dance around but didn't quite get all that explicitly was the electorate in November is much bluer than it is in June. A lot more minorities are casting pilots -- by -- ballots. These two measures giving more power to the November elections could really and a pretty Republicans and helped Democrats. They have the potential to change the city politics. I think is a good chance that a lot of money will be spent on these. Like a concern about loading up the ballot in November is starting pretty early. It to starting this year. What about you sit there are about a dozen city propositions. What about the citizens initiative? Those are two of them. They were placed on the ballot to signature gathering campaign. So the city Council will he only could decide whether to adopt them out right or to pass them on to the voters. And brief both would freeze city's hotel room tax in the charges would use that money to build the downtown stadium and convention center. This is's plan would make it easier to build all of those. They would also reserve the Qualcomm Stadium site for educational use and parkland. Both were big campaign issues in June. I think they will be big issues again in November. Threat, the city staff say that election may cost the city? They are about Four $.2 million and that is already a little bit more than what the city has budgeted. There are several different variables which we don't have to go -- time to go into. The worst-case scenario is that it could be up to $5.5 million. So it is almost certain that the city did not Ajit enough money for -- to hold these elections in November and that is going to mean ultimately diverting money from other areas of the budget. So why is it so expensive? Is it because of the amount just simply the amount they have to print? They have to print a lot of paper and mail a lot of the papers there are some ideas on how to bring the cost down. You mentioned the charges initiative and this is's plan. Both they are exploring options on building the full text of things online. I think if you are voter you get these long packets of legal text that very few people read. They just read the summaries. So regardless they are legally required to make those things available to people who want to read them. So the city could maybe put those online or also exploring the option of mailing out one copy to a household with multiple registered voters. If you are family of four Mac and everything is registered to vote, you would have to share one copy of the legal text of laws. So there are some ideas in a think that in the coming weeks will be figuring out exactly how the city well-managed to have cover all of the election Cosper the state is loading up on the November ballot? That's right 17 initiatives at the state level ranging from using condoms important to the death penalty. It will be a jampacked November ballot. I've been speaking with Andrew Bolan. Thank you so much.

San Diegans To Vote On Changing City Election Rules
A divided City Council approved the ballot measures. One would require all elections for city offices go to a November runoff. The other would mandate all citizens initiatives and referendums be decided in November elections.

A divided City Council voted Tuesday to put on the November ballot a pair of proposals that would make fundamental changes to San Diego's elections rules.

If the measures are approved, all elections for city offices would require a November runoff beginning in 2018, while citizens initiatives and referendums would be placed on the general election ballot.

Voters will decide the issues because they would amend the city charter, which acts as San Diego's constitution.


Currently, candidates for mayor, city attorney and City Council win outright in June elections if they receive more than half the vote. The proposal would require automatic runoffs between the top two vote-getters.

The decision to call for a public vote on the change passed on a pair of 5-4, party-line votes. Democrats frequently get a higher voter turnout in November, and they backed the measures.

"We should do everything we can as elected officials to ensure our citizenry feels empowered and have a voice in the city decisions that affect their daily lives," said Council President Sherri Lightner, a Democrat. "By ensuring that all city elections are decided in November, when the most numbers of voters cast ballots, we will take another step toward achieving that goal."

She called it "a huge public education problem" in that people assume the top candidates will move automatically to the general election, as happens at the state and federal levels.

“The simplest solution would be for all city candidate elections to be decided in November, as they are at the state and federal level," Lightner said. "This will avoid confusion among voters and will maximize voter participation in city elections.”


Republican Councilman Chris Cate said no other California city conducts its elections in the way that's being proposed. Cate said the best way to maximize voter participation would be to have a plurality system, in which everyone runs in November.

"If you're concerned about whether or not you have the ability to participate and have your voices heard, why would you want to limit yourselves to only hearing the candidates that make it through June? ... Those candidates who do run in June, don't you want to see them in November, and have the opportunity to vote on them in November?" Cate said.

Republican Councilman Mark Kersey said the main problem was voter apathy in the June elections, and that the proposed solution would be tremendously costly to the city and politicians who would have to run twice, no matter their winning margin in June.

"This particular thing in front of us today is poorly thought out," said Kersey, who won re-election in June by getting a majority of the vote. "It was rushed. And it is a waste of taxpayer money."

Regarding citizens initiatives and referendums, Lightner said the change would place major municipal issues before the most voters, and aligns the city with state procedures.

The City Council also placed before voters questions on whether San Diego High School can remain operating in Balboa Park when its lease expires, and whether to extend a funding stream in the City Charter for regional park projects.