The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

April showers bring May elections in 2015

Officials will be voted into office in May instead of October

 


Municipal elections in Valdez will fall back to spring in 2015.

The Valdez City Council unanimously passed an ordinance Monday night that changes the city’s municipal elections to the first Tuesday in May from its current calendar, which is the first Tuesday in October.

The move comes after council rejected a proposal to move the elections to April during prior talks.

The council originally proposed changing the month that elections for mayor, city council and board education are held because October elections gave newly elected mayors and city council members no time to become familiar with the inner workings of the city’s finances before they were required to pass the city’s complex, multimillion dollar budget.

The proposed move to an April election calendar was rejected because newly elected school board members would be put in a similar position, as the school district’s fiscal year budget is passed in April.

May was a compromise on both sides, though some elected officials from both council and school board worried that voter turnout in spring would go down from fall elections.

Board member Dolores Gard told the council she believed in holding elections when the maximum number of voters were most likely to go to the polls.

“I guess I’m believing October is a much better choice,” Gard said. “I’m thinking elections should be held when the most voters will get out and vote.”

Councilwoman Donna Schantz had expressed a similar concern, but voted in favor of the ordinance saying that asking newly elected council and board members to understand and vote on their respective budgets without experience was not ideal and that she has been disappointed with voter turnout for October elections.

“We’ll see if this changes things or not,” she said.

Councilman Chris Moulton questioned whether or not fears of low voter turnout in spring were valid and solidly backed the ordinance moving the elections to spring for the benefit of those newly elected to office, as did Mayor Dave Cobb.

The ordinance will not go into effect until 2015 because the city’s charter mandates that any change in the municipal election date must be in effect at least one year before the election.

All elected officials on council and school board will have their current terms of office cut short by six months because of the change, as will new council and school board members elected to office in the October 2014 elections. City council seats and the office of mayor are two year terms, while board of education members are elected to serve three years.

“Those public officials elected on or after May 5, 2015 will resume serving full terms in office,” Sheri Pierce, city clerk, said in the supporting agenda statement to council.

The ordinance also changed the dates for filing to run for public office from its current cycle. The new filing period will run from February 15 through March 15.

“Since we are addressing the election code I have proposed other amendments to

the sections which allow for use of optical scanning ballot tabulation and amendments

to the process for absentee voting by electronic transmission,” Pierce’s agenda statement also said. “The amendments address present technology and safeguards to insure the integrity of the electronic absentee voting process and tabulation of votes. I have removed the section regarding punch card voting as this method is outdated and has no chance of resurrection.”

The first spring elections will be May 5, 2015

 

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