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.)