SAN DIEGO, CALIF.- By a vote of 3-2 the San Diego City Council Rules Committee authorized the City Attorney to conduct a thorough review of two separate election measures. One dealing with the 50%+1 rule that currently exists in the city’s primary elections, the other, a proposal that would prohibit initiatives from being placed on the ballot in June, in favor of the November general election ballot.
The first proposed charter amendment was brought by the Independent Voter Project. It would allow the top-two finishers in City of San Diego elections to proceed to the November general election, instead of ending a race if an elected reaches the “50%+1” threshold in the June primary.
The second proposed amendment, brought by Alliance San Diego, would prohibit any ballot initiative from making it onto the June primary and send it only to voters on the November general election. In each case, proponents argued that a higher, more representative voter turnout, is better for the City's interests.
Council President Sherri Lightner, councilmember Marti Emerald and councilmember Myrtle Cole all voted in favor of the amendments.
The City Attorney’s office will now draft language and analysis on the proposed amendments and “try” to have it back to the full council on July 11. The drop dead date to have these on the ballot for November is August 2.
Councilmember Marti Emerald said, “Political strategists in San Diego have used the lower voter turnout in the June Primary to their advantage for years. It’s not democracy at its best. We should work hard to get this on the November ballot.”
Councilmember Myrtle Cole agreed saying, “We must make sure we can do whatever we can to outreach and educate the public on this very important proposed amendment to our Charter.”
Two councilmembers, Chris Cate and Mark Kersey, both voted no on sending the amendments to the full council. Each councilmember had concerns over the “costs” associated with extending more elections to November and Kersey added, “I’d be more in favor of the Instant Runoff Voting method. I’ve never had any constituent come to me and say, let’s extend the election to November.” Councilmember Cate noted that of the Top 10 cities in the country by population, 8 use the system currently in place in San Diego.
But the data is clear on the issue of voter turnout. In a November general election, voters turnout in much larger numbers than the June primary, in some demographics they turn out four times more than they do in June.
IVP Co-Chair Jeff Marston told the committee, "How about we don't wrap up our democracy in June and instead, have a more robust dialogue about the important issues facing our communities when the most people are paying attention--in the November general election."