The West Hollywood City Council voted last night to put off until 2020 the consolidation of its biennial city election with statewide general elections.
The decision means that those elected to the two council seats open this coming March will be able to serve for 44 months (until November 2020) rather than the regular 48-month term. The successful contenders for the three seats up for election in March 2019 will also will be able to serve for only 44 months and will face re-election in November 2022.
The change in election dates will have no impact on city term limits, which state that no elected official can serve more than three terms, no matter what their length is. The term limit ordinance took effect in 2013.
The change is mandated by a state law that requires cities and counties with a low voter turnout to reschedule their elections to coincide with general elections, where the turnout usually is higher. A memo prepared by City Clerk Yvonne Quarker shows that the average turnout of West Hollywood voters for statewide elections for the last four years has been 65% compared to a turnout of 19.66% in the March 2015 city council election.
The memo notes that “the voter turnout percentage for the city has been consistently low. In 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, and 2015, voter turnout percentages were 22%, 18%, 25%, 20% and 20% respectively…”
Council members John Duran and John Heilman will be up for re-election this coming March. Duran told the council last night that he objected to moving the city election date to the statewide election date. He argued that candidates for the WeHo City Council would be lost on a ballot that includes state offices and various ballot initiatives. Duran, who cast the sole vote against the change, said it would favor incumbents, who residents who don’t closely follow city politics are more likely to be aware of.
Heilman disagreed with Duran. “I actually trust the voters who vote in the general election,” he said. He agreed with Mayor Lauren Meister’s argument against implementing the change earlier by moving the city election to November 2018. That would shorten by four months the terms of Meister and council members Lindsey Horvath and John D’Amico. Both Meister and Heilman argued that such a move would be unfair to voters who believed they were electing those council members to four-year terms.