By Genece Minshew

Well, that did not take long.

Less than a month in office, the new Republican majority city commission is proposing to move the city elections from the general election in November to the primary election in August of election years.

This was suggested by Bradley Bean in 2020 when he was an appointed member of the City Charter Review Commission. This issue was not put forth to the voters by the Charter Review Commission and for good reason.

In our county, the August primary is very much a county-wide Republican primary. Florida primaries are closed elections. That means that you can only vote for those offices within your party unless there is no opposite party candidate for the general election. Then the primary does become the general by default.

That is what we see in our county races, as there is little chance for a Democratic candidate to win a county-wide election.

While there are some state and federal offices for Democrats to vote for in August, it is confusing and frustrating for many voters. Additionally, the high volume of campaigning for state and county-wide candidates really takes up so much energy, that a small city-wide election gets lost in the shuffle.

We already have a problem with city voters failing to vote down ballot during the general election. On the Nov. 8 ballot, over 1,000 city residents failed to vote all the way down their ballot to the city elections seats. Moving the election to August will just make this problem worse.

Why now?  Why is this on the Jan. 17 City Commission agenda? What are the benefits?

I understand that the reason may be financial. It will save money. The city budgets $35,000 during election years. This money is designed to pay the County Supervisor of Elections to manage our elections. So, does that budget item go away? When asked, the city staff have not been able to say exactly what will be the benefit, if any. Another example of making decisions on whims and ego and not on facts. This ordinance is also changing how the mayor is selected.

City elections used to be held in the spring and were stand-alone elections, but that changed several years ago when the terms were changed to four years and made to align with the standard election cycle.

The assumption was that it would increase voter turnout and relieve the City Clerk of actually managing the election. While it has helped the City Clerk, I am not convinced that we have had significant increases in voter turnout.

If you are a concerned city voter, then you should be very concerned about this ploy to increase Republican control of our city commission.  Make your voice heard on Tues., Jan. 17 at 6 p.m. at the City Commission meeting.

(Editor’s note: This is the second commentary we have received opposing the proposed change in city elections. It is a serious issue, therefore we encourage the proponents to weigh in as well, to make their own case for the change. We will publish all thoughtful commentaries.)

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Al MacDougall
Al MacDougall (@guest_66776)
24 days ago

December run-off elections always have very low voter participation, which means a small minority of voters actually decide the winners. The goal must be more citizen input, not less. Aligning with higher turn-out election dates seems the right way to go.

Genece Minshew
Genece Minshew (@guest_66783)
23 days ago
Reply to  Al MacDougall

The most recent runoff had a 39% turnout. Which is more than some generals. This change does not encourage voter turnout

Al MacDougall
Al MacDougall (@guest_66784)
23 days ago
Reply to  Genece Minshew

That was an exception–check the historical record. Of course, it does greatly increase the level of participation. A welcome change for more representative election outcomes.

Tom Duffy
Tom Duffy(@tduffyjrcomcast-net)
23 days ago

What does it matter if we have non partisan elections?

John Findlay
John Findlay (@guest_66798)
23 days ago
Reply to  Tom Duffy

We used to have non partisan elections. That went by the wayside in the most recent City Commissioner elections in which candidates openly ran as “The Only Republicans on the Ballot”.

Tom smith
Tom smith (@guest_66787)
23 days ago

Sounds like, boo hoo hoo I lost and my side was treated unfairly. Libs wrote the book on whining and excuses when they lose. Although, she does make good points when it comes to previous budget issues.

Robert Warner
Robert Warner (@guest_66789)
23 days ago
Reply to  Tom smith

Her comments are well taken. Yours are too. For different reasons.

Last edited 23 days ago by Robert Warner
Mike Collins
Mike Collins (@guest_66788)
23 days ago

Seems obvious to me that voter turnout will be significantly less in August than in November, when voters come out to vote in state and federal contests. I suspect that’s the real purpose here — not cost savings. Leave municipal elections in November, and continue them as nonpartisan contests. Our democracy is too lopsided in Nassau County as it is.

Richard (@guest_66790)
23 days ago

The city ballot would have to be a separate sheet, open to everyone … otherwise those voters not associated with either Republican or Democrat would have no vote. But it makes sense to take the opportunity to hold City elections when the election staff are already in place. Handing out a second sheet doesn’t sound all that cumbersome.

Alyce Parmer
Alyce Parmer (@guest_66792)
23 days ago

Wake up Fernandina Beach. A real two-party system and non-partisan elections keep our democracy healthy. If you want to erode confidence in our system of governance, by all means advocate for one-party control. Your mother taught you to share for good reasons. Sharing builds trust and cooperation. My way or the highway builds resentment, dissension, division and trouble. Mayberry by the Sea’s idyllic sense of community is unraveling.

Richard Timm
Richard Timm (@guest_66793)
23 days ago

It is a bad idea to move the City Commission from the general election to the primary because that would make the Commission election even more partisan than it sadly became in 2022.

Jerry Torchia
Jerry Torchia (@guest_66795)
23 days ago

Once again, Republicans work to limit election options. The only way they can win is by playing dirty.

John Findlay
John Findlay (@guest_66796)
23 days ago

Moving the City Commissioner election to the primary will simply ensure that only Republicans can win those elections. Because Republicans predominate in Nassau County, and in most cases their candidates are almost certain to win general elections, Republicans have far more incentive to vote in primary elections. The fairest and most economical way to elect City Commissioners would be to use Ranked Choice voting during the general election, which essentially is an instant runoff. But DeSantis and his cronies have apparently just made that illegal. So the next best choice would be to move the runoff to a date very shortly after the general election, like one week later. That would minimize the time for nasty partisan politics.

Tammi Kosack
Tammi Kosack (@guest_66797)
23 days ago

What is most disconcerting about this proposed change is the end run around the voice of the people. 

I sat on the most recent Charter Review Committee (CRC)which met for over a year from 2019-2021, along with (now Mayor) Bradley Bean. We had more than 16 multi-hour meetings, studying every word, comma, date and ramification of our city charter. The process was long and tedious. Our group spent multiple hours on Elections, including potentially moving the city election to be concurrent with the county primary in August. That particular item bled over into several meetings over the year.

We parsed data from decades of previous elections, both general, primary and run-offs; in our city, the county and even nationally. What our group of 7 ultimately decided was to keep the elections AS IS, and not to move to an August date. The reasons were numerous, including voter disenfranchisement, and the move creating an apparent shift to partisanship. Bradley Bean fought hard to have the election moved to August, again and again. All the meetings can be viewed via the City archived video meetings for verification.

As mandated, our CRC recommendations were passed along to the Commission for review, where they had the opportunity to amend, nullify or accept any or all.  ALL recommendations were accepted, and passed along to the people via a referendum vote.
And the people spoke: the referendum passed and all CRC recommendations passed, including keeping the elections in November and NOT moving to August (or any other month). 

It is very disheartening to see this proposal pop-up on the Commission agenda, in what appears to be a blatant disregard for the voice of the citizens, including those of us who volunteer hundreds of hours to attempting to make our city a better place for all.
I hope the 3 newest commissioners, as well as our citizens take the time to educate themselves on this very important issue.  

Al MacDougall
Al MacDougall (@guest_66805)
22 days ago
Reply to  Tammi Kosack

Voice of the People?—-I see opinion of 7–take a real referendum on election dates if you really care.

Tammi Kosack
Tammi Kosack (@guest_66807)
21 days ago
Reply to  Al MacDougall

The CRC review was open to the public, and many citizens came to sit through meetings and speak. Additionally, we received many, many letters from citizens wanting to keep the elections in November. The CRC committed was well balanced and worked in a transparent manner. Not at all sure what your “opinion of 7” refers to, so forgive me if I am misinterpreting your reply to my comment.

Tammi Kosack
Tammi Kosack (@guest_66808)
21 days ago
Reply to  Tammi Kosack

Al, Also, the referendum was on the regular November election ballot, which had record high turnout.

Robert Warner
Robert Warner (@guest_66820)
20 days ago
Reply to  Al MacDougall

I care about manipulation. We have a functioning system. Leave it alone. See Tammi Kosack, below.

Genece Minshew
Genece Minshew (@guest_66799)
23 days ago

If you want a true non partisan election, move the city elections back to the spring and keep the 4 year cycle. Then make city elections all vote by mail. Will save $$ and give city voters a clear picture. This was already done successfully for the charter amendments in 2920.

Jon Slaughter
Jon Slaughter (@guest_66801)
23 days ago

Absurd rationale by Minshew.

Robert S. Warner, Jr.
Robert S. Warner, Jr. (@guest_66821)
20 days ago
Reply to  Jon Slaughter

Why? Clarity is always better than obstruction of political voting processes.

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