Tell Monrovia City Council to hold City Elections in November, not March
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On November 7, 2017, the same day elections in Virginia and throughout the country had record levels of voter turnout, Monrovia’s City Council introduced an ordinance that would likely continue our low voter turnout.
Recently, California approved Senate Bill (SB) 415, which aims to increase voter turnout in local elections. Under this new law, cities in California that currently hold stand-alone elections are required to schedule these at the same time as statewide elections held in either November (general election) or March (primary election), if their turnout falls below a certain threshold. For Monrovia, this threshold is 45.7%. Monrovia’s voter turnout for the April 2017 city election was 13.4%, and 23.2% in April 2015.
While both options may increase voter turnout relative to current levels, the data suggest turnout will be much higher in November than March. In the last four November elections, Monrovia had an average turnout of 60.9%.
On October 17, in a study session, city staff recommended moving the city elections to March, when primary elections are held, beginning in 2020, rather than November 2018. If passed, this would have the effect of extending all current Council members’ terms by 11 months, rather than reducing them by 5 months. By law, they are allowed to extend or reduce terms by up to 12 months.
At the November 7 City Council meeting, several citizens spoke in opposition to the ordinance, proposing that city elections instead be held in November to align them with higher turnout general elections. Still, the City Council voted unanimously to introduce the ordinance proposing city elections be moved to March. It is currently scheduled to be voted into law on November 21, after which Monrovia residents will have no say. The time to speak up is now!
Increased turnout will result in a City Council that is more reflective of all Monrovia residents and not just a small fraction. Our voter turnout is extraordinarily low, and the reasons the City Council and staff gave for preferring March over November are weak and misleading. These include logistical barriers to getting everything set up by November 2018, increased partisanship in November, and greater expense for candidates to reach the greater number of November voters.
They have not described these logistical barriers or explained why they expect greater partisanship in November. On the contrary, research suggests primary elections are typically more partisan than general elections. Finally, the expense argument suggests City Council members prefer March not despite low turnout but because of low turnout.
The Mayor has repeatedly said he is not concerned about Monrovia’s low voter turnout. Voter turnout is not a partisan issue, and is something that everyone, especially the Mayor, should care about, since an engaged electorate is essential to a functioning democracy. The new state law is intended to improve voter turnout for our city, and cities throughout California. If the City Council chooses low turnout March over November, they are in fact disenfranchising voters, even if this decision raises turnout relative to current levels.
Our City Council should represent its citizens and their concerns, not the convenience and financial interests of elected officials. If you believe in increasing voter turnout so that the City Council represents all Monrovians and not just a few, please sign this petition. The petition will be presented to City Council at the November 21 meeting, before they vote to formally adopt the ordinance. If you would like to do more than sign, please consider contacting your City Council members (http://www.cityofmonrovia.org/your-government/city-council/meet-the-city-council or attending this meeting at 7:30 pm at City Hall.
**Please only members of Monrovia, CA sign this petition**
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