City Council Takes Steps on Election Decision

Though coming short of a final determination, the City Council did narrow its choices for how it will conform to the state’s election calendar at its sole December meeting.
Based on its vote at the Dec. 14 meeting, the City Council plans to hold the November 2017 election for three of its seats as planned. To be determined, however, is how those or subsequent terms will be modified to transition the city to elections on even-numbered years.
The foundation of the issue lies in Senate Bill 415, which requires political subdivisions to merge with statewide elections (either June or November of even years) if their regular local elections are held at other times and routinely draw 25% fewer voters than those who vote in statewide elections.
San Marino’s City Council has long held its elections in odd-numbered years and data shows their turnouts to be significantly lower than that of even-year elections. Subdivisions have until Jan. 1, 2018, to adopt plans and those plans must be implemented by 2022.
This is where the philosophical divide started. Councilman Steve Talt spoke early in favor of taking time to implement changes so as to consider the most data possible and in anticipation of changes from the state government.
“That’s why I’d prefer waiting and seeing what happens,” Talt said. “Maybe we could come up with a game plan and wait on implementing it until absolutely necessary.”
Numerous audience members, however, were anxious to know sooner rather than later whether they should continue to plan for an election in November, mostly on the basis that some people have expressed interest in running.
“I think we should do it now,” said resident Dale Pederson, calling for a decision to be made. “People are already talking about running for City Council. I think in fairness to the citizens who are considering running now, it would be important to make that decision as soon as possible.”
Of the various audience members who echoed Pederson, one man — Ken Ude — openly declared he was considering a political run.
The various options to adjust election dates included simply adding a year to the three outgoing terms — those of Dr. Richard Sun, Richard Ward and Dr. Allan Yung — to make them expire in 2018 instead. All three councilmen are in their second term and cannot run for re-election. Notably, as Ward pointed out, those three councilmembers have already extended their terms by six months when the city transitioned from June elections to November years during their first terms.
Yung made a point to dispel the possibility those three could possibly do so again, even though state election code allows politicians to adjust terms by no more than a year to accommodate election date changes.
“We have served for almost eight years,” he said. “I believe that is long enough. I would like us to implement a plan for 2020 and to carry out the 2017 election as planned. I don’t want to delay the 2017 election.”
Dr. Steven Huang said his philosophy is to keep as much of the decision in voters’ hands as possible and supports the idea of making the next couple of elections for odd-numbered terms to have them end at the appropriate times.
“That way we let the voters decide,” he said. “We’d still have an election in 2017 and 2019.”
Talt ultimately made a motion to throw out all choices that involved extending the outgoing terms, which saw unanimous approval. Now, the decision comes down to whether the city holds elections in June or keeps them in November.
Having an election in June would likely result in a smaller overall ballot for voters to consider, which could better magnify local issues for the city’s voters. However, presidential elections tend to draw the biggest turnouts in November. It was also mentioned that June is a popular vacation month.
There also are questions to consider about the year the city merges with the state. In a report prepared by the city, county officials expressed a concern there would not yet be an adequate infrastructure to handle a large influx of simultaneous elections in 2020.
“It may be perfectly fine, but it might be a mess,” remarked city attorney Steve Dorsey.
These are presumably the decisions to be made when the City Council next convenes in January.

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