At the recent LWV of Boulder County Program Planning meeting, LWVBC decided to study the timing of municipal and special district elections (though we might end up looking at other local elections too). We are actually hoping that a League has already studied this issue so that we can build on their work, but we haven’t yet found any existing studies.
If this topic interests you, please consider joining the study team.
We know that Denver voters recently approved moving municipal elections one month earlier in the year. Fort Collins is talking about moving elections from the spring to November. Boulder is talking about moving council elections from odd years to even years.
California, Washington and Oregon have or are considering changing some or all local elections to even years. High Point, North Carolina, also switched from odd to even election years but, after a few election cycles, voters approved, by greater than a 2-1 margin, changing back to odd-year elections beginning in 2017.
The main argument for moving from odd to even years for elections is to increase turnout. Turnout is consistently higher in even-year federal November elections than in odd-year elections. This appears to be true even in a state like Virginia which chooses its 3 statewide elected officials the year after the presidential election and elects its legislature in odd years.
LWV wants to empower voters. Increasing turnout is part of empowering voters, but should the League also consider other factors such as crowded ballots, nationalizing local elections and leaving school board elections as ballot orphans? These are a few of the issues that we anticipate studying.
Sometimes small special district elections aren’t coordinated by the County Clerk or held simultaneously with other election contests – often resulting in low turnout. These elections may not involve mail ballots; voters may be expected to vote at the polls in person. Any jurisdiction, including special districts, which asks the County Clerk to coordinate an election must pay the Clerk for the services rendered. No wonder jurisdictions so readily “cancel” elections when there are no contested races and no wonder some special districts conduct their own elections at unusual times.
If any League wants to weigh in on a ballot issue, it should have studied the issue or be relying on other Leagues’ research. We feel that our study will be an important service for not only LWVBC, but perhaps Leagues across the nation. For instance, LWVWA is remaining silent on the election-timing bill currently being considered by the Washington legislature. We want to conduct this study in an efficient, but comprehensive, manner so that we can have a voice if and when a measure gets on the ballot.
If you would like to be part of this study team, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and put “timing of elections” in the subject line.