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Cape to consider moving municipal elections

Council mulls re-establishment of even-year cycle to boost turnout, save money

January 10, 2019
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Cape Coral residents will get a say in whether they would like to vote for city officials on the same ballot that offers county, state and federal races.

Cape Coral City Council on Monday will consider an ordinance that will change the dates of primary and general city elections from odd-numbered back to even-numbered years to coincide with the mid-term and presidential elections.

The public hearing on the matter will be held after the meeting's 4:30 p.m. starting time.

The ordinance was originally set for consideration in December, but Council voted to push it back to the new year following a very close election that required recounts in several state races.

The ordinance would take effect for the 2020 presidential election in Council Districts 2, 3, 5 and 7.

It would also provide for a one-time, one-year extension of terms of all current council members and the mayor in order to accommodate the change.

State law precludes a shortening of terms.

Beginning in November 2022 would be elections for Districts 1, 4, and 6, and the mayor.

Councilmember David Stokes, who brought forward the ordinance, has cited the lack of voter participation and an apparent interest in residents to change to even-numbered years to make the change.

Included in the agenda packet was an online and print poll conducted by the Cape Coral Breeze which showed that about three-fourths of those responding favored a move back to even-numbered-year elections, which the city did previously until 2007.

A former supervisor of elections required the move from the crowded even year, fall election ballots, for the county's municipalities.

Some cities opted for an even year spring cycle. Others, like the Cape, moved to the odd year cycle in the fall.

Stokes also showed data that showed voter turnout in the 2017 mayoral election was 18.28 percent with the 2015 results even more meager, at 13 percent, while the 2016 General Election had a turnout of 78.52 percent and the 2018 gubernatorial and mid-term election had a 62 percent turnout.

No city officials could be reached for comment Thursday afternoon after the Council agenda was posted online by city staff, however included in the agenda packet was a letter from city Business Manager Jay Murphy to Tommy Doyle, Lee Supervisor of Lee County Elections.

The letter said the change would increase participation in local elections and reduce the city's every two year average election cost from $464,000 to a bare fraction of that.

"By extrapolating this data, we could anticipate a measurable increase in voter participation and a reduction in the two-year average election costs from $464,000 to a de minimis amount associated with translation fees for any referendums," Murphy wrote.

Doyle said he supported the proposal, even though he had concern over the potential for overly-lengthy ballots and voter fatigue.

In other business at Monday's 4:30 p.m. meeting, the Charter Review Commission will give its recommendations to City Council, which includes moving the election to even-numbered years and removing the power of veto for the mayor on line items in the budget.

It also recommends a ban on mayors or council members, from contracting with the city until one year after their active terms and to change the number of signatures from 15 percent to 10 percent of the total number of electors for initiative and referendum petitions.

City Manager John Szerlag will also ask the City Council for guidance regarding the sale of beer, wine or wine smoothies at Sun Splash Waterpark as a way to generate additional revenue.

 
 

 

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