After voter turnout skyrocketed between the April municipal elections and the November county elections, the City Council is considering moving the city voting dates to coincide with the county’s in November.
The move is being considered in the hopes they could receive a bigger piece of the electorate pie. This is the second time the issue has come up in recent years.
Big banner issues like Measure R, four school board seats and the gubernatorial race created a huge draw for registered voters last week, where they hit the polls with an estimated 42 percent voter turnout, according to City Clerk Lisa Pope.
This is in stark contrast to the approximately 33.7 percent voter turnout for the April elections, on a ballot that only included the city council race. That percentage is slightly up from the 27.7 percent turnout in April 2012.
“Based on voter turnout, we know that more people turn out in elections in November,” said Mayor Skylar Peak, who suggested the change during Monday’s City Council meeting.
“I think that, in light of voter turnout and historical voter turnout, that this would better serve our community,” he added.
Malibu constituents seem to agree, judging by the enthusiastic response out of nearly a dozen public speakers who came out in support of the suggested measure.
“In April, we were looking at somewhere around 30 percent, so we are looking at a significant increase in voter participation, and that’s going to increase more in the … November presidential years, we’ll see a lot more participation,” said Cynthia Kesselman, a member of the Malibu Community Alliance.
“In the last presidential election, in Malibu, it was somewhere around 70 percent participation,” she stated.
Leila Pedersen, state policy coordinator at California Common Cause, a statewide nonprofit, agreed that coordinating with national races is key.
According to Pedersen, California Common Cause believes that November elections in even-numbered years stand the most chance of drawing voters to the polls.
“Research shows that this is the single-most important factor in determining voter turnout,” Pedersen said.
“We believe that voter participation and turnout is central to the functioning of our democracy,” Pedersen added.
“Increasing the turnout is really, really important,” said resident John Mazza.
A few hurdles stand in the way of consolidating elections, the option most favored by those who spoke at the meeting and suggested by Peak.
“At this time, the city is unable to consolidate due to the county’s current voting system. The system is not capable of a higher volume or adding jurisdictions to the ballot,” reads the staff report for Monday’s meeting. Consolidated voting would put all issues on one paper ballot.
Were consolidated to become possible, LA County has estimated that the cost could be as much as $69,000.
Instead, the city can choose to hold concurrent elections, where two ballots are handed out on the same voting day, one for municipal issues and one for county races.
According to Pope, there is all gain and no pain if the council chooses to move toward concurrent elections.
“The cost of a concurrent election in November would be the same as an election in April,” Pope said.
The council voted unanimously, 5-0, to call for staff to form a report on the issue, including weighing whether it would be better to move elections to June of even years to coincide with primaries.