Council Elections

TOPIC DISCUSSION PAPER:  City Council Elections

 

 

ISSUE STATEMENT:  How should city council members be selected? 

 

EXISTING CHARTER LANGUAGE:  Article 8, Section 2 of the city charter delineates the existing system that governs selection of city council members.  Existing language requires council members to be elected by position number (one through six); each candidate is required to designate the number of the Council seat to which he or she aspires.  A candidate may run for one position in any given election.

 

            Budget implications:  Periodic election costs.

 

Accountability:  Council members are elected by the city as a whole and are thus accountable to all voters.

 

Community/Council impacts:  Proponents argue that the existing system results in better debate and clarification of issues.  Conversely, critics charge: 1) that the position system can be used to target specific minority candidates; 2) that it unnecessarily complicates the voting process and stymies a citizenís ability to support the candidates of his/her choice; and, 3) that it can allow unchallenged incumbents to avoid scrutiny.

 

ALTERNATIVES:

 

1.      Status quo.  Charter language remains unchanged.

Budget, accountability and impacts as outlined above.

 

2.      Maintain existing position system with addition of instant voter runoff.

 

Budget:  IVR costs (voter education and election tally) would need to be absorbed by the city. 

 

Accountability:  As with the status quo, council members would be accountable to city-wide voters. However, IVR proponents argue that the process empowers minority candidates and thus requires candidates to be more sensitive to the range of voters.

 

Community/council impacts:  Proponents argue that IVR will empower minority candidates and their issues, and perhaps encourage cooperation among candidates, both before and after the election; additionally, IVR may re-energize disenchanted voters through its requirement that the winning candidate amass at least 50% of the vote.  Conversely, the complexity of IVR would require extensive voter education.

 

 

3.      Implement a city-wide ward system; candidates would be elected from six different districts apportioned within city boundaries.

 

Budget:  Ongoing election costs should vary little from the status quo; however, city will experience additional costs from initial implementation and periodic reapportionment.

 

Accountability:  Council members will be accountable to specific neighborhoods and specific neighbors.

 

Community/council impacts:  Proponents argue that wards allow voters to choose candidates who reflect the specific needs of a neighborhood, thus ensuring that the local agenda is represented on the council.  Conversely, critics charge that the ward system can encourage divisiveness and undermine a city-wide vision.

 

4.      Implement a city-wide ward system with addition of instant voter runoff.

 

Budget, accountability, and impacts as outlined in options 2 and 3 above.

 

5.      Eliminate position system in favor of city-wide at-large election.  Top vote-getters would win council seats at issue.

 

Budget:  Ongoing election costs should vary little from the status quo.

 

Accountability:  Candidates/council members will be accountable to city-wide voters.

 

Community/council impacts:  Proponents argue that a city-wide at large election (no positions, no wards) will simplify the voting process and enable voters to support their candidates of choice; streamlining the selection process could result in more voter participation.  Additionally, an open field would require all candidates to campaign for office and actively debate the issues. 

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