In the wake of the 2012 general election, I’m sure the last thing anyone is excited for is another election. But alas, time marches on and the ballot boxes will be open once again on April 2nd, this time just for city issues, including 3 city council seats. It’s important to notice that city races are non-partisan, meaning that candidates are not listed with an affiliated party on the ballot. This is both a good and a bad thing. Good because it eliminates some channels for campaign funding and creates a more equal opportunity for any candidate. Bad because voters can’t rely on their local party’s vetting process to select a candidate for them, and worse because it means you might actually have to do a little research before you vote.
When it gets closer to election day, I’ll talk more about the candidates and their policy goals for the City Council. Today I thought I would stick to the functional side and talk about the election itself. It seems a bit odd to hold an election less than six months after the big one to me. The city could save a little bit on ballots by running concurrent with the federal election cycle, many other cities do. I’m sure it’s an overstatement to think the reason is a deliberate attempt to protect incumbents by exploiting the general public’s lack of interest in any mid-term or off-cycle elections, but that is the net result. People are very busy and our culture views voting as an inconvenience at best. Average voter turn-out drops from approximately 65% in general elections to closer 40% or even 35% for off-cycle elections. This is compounded by the city’s distribution of districts, half of which come up for election at the same time. While this move helps ensure that there’s a continuity of institutional knowledge (experienced officials pass on know-how to new officials), it does make it a bit more difficult for voters, most of whom probably don’t know what district they live in, let alone which districts are up for election or when the elections are.
Fortunately, all this information is public knowledge. Despite the layers of bureaucracy at play and the seemingly bizarre timing, government only works if at least the bare minimum number of people participate. You can find all the regulations and dates and other relevant election information at the city clerk’s website, including the below map! They even have an interactive map, if the regular non-interactive one isn’t clear enough. So, if you live in an odd number district (that’s 1, 3, and 5) mark your calendars, you’re up this year!