Move the date of Dallas municipal elections to the same as general ones

Move the date of Dallas municipal elections to the same as general ones

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Alexandra Crosnoe started this petition to Dallas City Council

Dallas’s minuscule municipal voter turnout endorses a lack of representation for the greater, diverse population in local government. Dallas governs through a council-manager system, a form of municipal government in which the City Council acts as the city’s primary legislative body.[v] Dallasites vote on these fourteen council positions in their municipal elections, held every other odd year, which many fail to engage in, displaying alarmingly low numbers: in May 2015, Dallas’ municipal election voter turnout of about six percent was the worst in the country, and in May 2019, the city’s last municipal election, only nine and a half percent of registered voters showed up to vote.[vi] Further, the median age of voters in the 2015 municipal election was sixty-two, Dallas seniors holding an estimated twenty-two times more impact on the election than 18-to-34-year-olds, and in heavily Hispanic areas, the turnout was three percent or lower, revealing that the City Council is significantly representative of the needs of the oldest Whites of Dallas society, an identity which does not come close to embodying the city’s, one made up of majority minorities.[vii] Despite these statistics, which display the greater population’s apathy towards the outcome of local elections as they neglect to use their voice in it, the City Council holds immense influence in Dallas’ government, as they approve, adopt, and allocate the city’s over three-and three quarter-billion-dollar budget, levy taxes and amend city laws, policies, and ordinances.[viii] Moreover, they dominate public policy, which directly impacts its citizens’ lives, seen in their allocation of Congress’ CARES Act Funding during the depths of the COVID-19 economic crisis, passing cite-and-release policies on less than four ounces of marijuana, and requiring that construction workers are given one ten-minute break for every four hours they work.[ix][x] In simple terms, when Dallasites do not vote in their municipal elections, they lack any say in what happens in their most personal, local level of government, discouraging democracy, which the Founding Fathers implemented to serve and accurately represent the people.[xi] In order to elect a governing body that reflects and represents Dallas’ diverse and unique population’s desires, citizens must vote in municipal elections.

 Dallas’ voting dilemma, although massive, can be solved with one sweeping change: moving the municipal election to the same ballot as the general one. Research categorizes low municipal voter turnout as caused by a lack of awareness of the candidates, issues, and functions of local elected officials.[xii] To combat this, many local governments, such as Dallas, set their election dates in odd-numbered off-cycle years, believing it would permit voters to focus specifically on municipal level issues without the distraction of federal elections. However, this backfired, as voter turnout relies on election timing, with participation in on-cycle local elections at least double that of off-cycle local elections. Citizens are much more likely to vote for local candidates if they lie on a general election ballot, where they are motivated by the vastly anticipated federal races, as they do not have to make the effort to show up at a separate time or date. When Baltimore shifted to on-cycle local elections in 2016, turnout soared from just 13 percent to 60 percent, and when Austin, a fellow Texan city, did the same thing in 2012, turnout skyrocketed from 10.7 percent to 40.4 percent; however, Dallas’ government continuously neglects taking this action, despite its promising potential outcome. By signing this petition, you will urge City Council to move municipal elections to the same ballot as general ones, helping protect democracy and increasing Dallasites' say in government. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Notes
 
 
 
 

1. “Notable and Quotable: Samuel Adams,” The Wall Street Journal, last modified November 7, 2016, https://www.wsj.com/articles/notable-quotable-samuel-adams-1478564935

 

2. Kevin Schaul, “2020 Turnout is the Highest in a Century,” The Washington Post, last modified November 5, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/elections/voter-turnout/

 

3. Alex Macon, “Dallas Has the Worst Voters in the Entire Country,” D Magazine, last modified April 27, 2017, https://www.dmagazine.com/frontburner/2017/04/dallas-has-the-worst-voters-in-the-entire-country/

 

4. Stephen Young, “Dallas Voters Appear to Have Perked Up a Little for Sunday’s Mayoral Election,” Dallas Insider, last modified May 2, 2019, https://www.dallasobserver.com/news/dallas-early-voting-recap-2019-11654576

 

5. “City Manager,” City of Dallas, last modified 2021, https://dallascityhall.com/government/citymanager/Pages/responsibilities.aspx

 

6.     Macon, “Dallas Has the Worst Voters in the Entire Country.”

 

7. Michael Lindenburger, “Dallas is Rock-Bottom in Voter Turnout and We’ve Got to Pull Together and Make Change,” The Dallas Morning News, last modified September 27, 2019, https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2018/09/27/dallas-is-rock-bottom-in-voter-turnout-and-we-ve-got-to-pull-together-to-change/

 

8. “City Council Responsibilities,” City of Dallas, last modified 2021, https://dallascityhall.com/government/citycouncil/district11/Pages/Council-Responsibilities.aspx

 

9. Stephen Young, “5 Surprisingly Progressive Things the Dallas City Council Has Done in the Last 5 Years,” Dallas Observer, last modified March 2, 2018. https://www.dallasobserver.com/news/dallas-city-councils-five-most-progressive-moves-10428066

10. “City of Dallas Announces CARES Act Short-Term Rental Assistance Program,” NBC DFW, last modified August 8, 2020. https://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/city-of-dallas-announces-cares-act-emergency-short-term-rental-assistance-program/2421823/

 

11. George Thomas, “America is a Republic, not a Democracy’ Is a Dangerous and Wrong Argument,” The Atlantic, last modified November 2, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/11/yes-constitution-democracy/616949/

 

12. Unless otherwise indicated, the in this paragraph comes from: Jan Brennan, “Increasing Voter Turnout in Local Elections,” National Civic League, last modified 2020. https://www.nationalcivicleague.org/ncr-article/increasing-voter-turnout-in-local-elections/

 

13.“About Us,” League of Women Voters of Dallas, last modified April 22, 2021. https://www.lwvdallas.org/

 

14.  Brennan, “Increasing Voter Turnout in Local Elections.”

 

15.  “City Council Responsibilities.”

 

16. “Council Memos: Friday Council Memo Packets,” City of Dallas, last modified 2021. https://dallascityhall.com/government/citymanager/Pages/council-memos.aspx
 

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