2013 Election Day has light turnout

It's an off year for this year's elections and some local cities are considering moving their elections to even-numbered years.
November 5, 2013 8:05:20 PM PST
Three Bay Area cities -- San Ramon, Sunnyvale and Vallejo -- have measures on the ballot to move their elections to even-numbered years. ABC7 News takes a look at the pros and cons of these off year elections.

Sunnyvale has some big issues on the ballot this November, like the hot-button measure on gun control mentioned. However, because this election is not during a year when you have statewide offices or a presidential election up for grabs, then the numbers are expected to be low and interestingly, changing that is also on that Sunnyvale ballot.

More and more people vote by mail. That may help explain why so few are showing up at the polls in Sunnyvale, but even factoring that in, overall turnout is predicted to be very low. That's because it's an off year election when few historically show up at the polls.

Michelle Romero of the Greenlining Institute in Berkley just completed a study on the impacts. She said, "Low voter turnout skews the election. If we have an unrepresentative pool turning out and making the decisions for the rest of us, we're really talking about undermining the integrity of our democracy overall."

Sunnyvale is the only city in Santa Clara County with an off year election and on Tuesday voters are being asked to change that. Not just because of the low voter turnout, but the high cost. It's estimated Tuesday's election will cost the city $400,000. In even years, it's about $200,000.

Sunnyvale City Councilmember Chris Moylan supports Measure A. He told us, "It would save the city a couple hundred thousand dollars every election and, perhaps more importantly, it would probably double the number of voters we get each city council election. So the results would be more representative of the city."

In even years, when there are statewide or presidential elections, Sunnyvale's turnout averages around 75 percent. In the off years it's closer to 39 percent.

Measure A has no official opposition, but there are various views from voters about moving the off year elections to an even year cycle. Sunnyvale resident Toni Daniel is voting yes.

"I think it might be a good idea because a lot of times people skip the year, if they don't think the ballots are big enough," said Daniel.

Sunnyvale resident Marv Rudin said no. "There will be more voters that have to be solicited in order to get the kind of people I want elected."

In San Francisco a relatively low turnout is predicted even though there's a hotly contested high rise development for voters to decide. Problem there is not the odd-year issue but rather that few candidates on the ballot. From now on the city treasurer and city attorney contests will be held at the same time as some other city-wide offices. That should get more people to the polls.


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