August 10, 2021
San Jose is one step closer to moving its mayoral elections to coincide with presidential election years.
The city’s Charter Review Commission voted Monday to recommend moving mayoral elections to presidential election years starting in 2024. The mayor elected next year would have a chance to run for two additional terms in 2024 and 2028.
The 23-member commission convenes to recommend changes to the city’s charter, which acts as San Jose’s constitution and determines the powers of the mayor and how residents vote. The City Council still needs to approve the recommendations, which the commission is expected to provide by Dec. 14, according to its work plan.
The commission first heard the proposal to change the date of mayoral elections at last month’s meeting, where many residents spoke in favor of it.
Commissioner and retired news editor Barbara Marshman said she used to think having mayoral elections in off-years would allow people to focus more on local politics, but has since changed her mind.
“I just think today, with the numbers that are out there, with voter suppression that’s going on across the country, there’s just no question that we need to do this,” Marshman said. “We need to be on the side of expanding voting rights.”
Commissioner and Valley Water CEO Rick Callender also supported the proposal, saying it would increase voter turnout.
“Increased voter turnout increases diversity,” Callender said. “I always love being on the right side of justice.”
Commissioner and historian Tobin Gilman was the only person opposing the recommendation, saying voters would have trouble paying attention to mayoral politics during a presidential election year.
“When there’s a mayoral election campaign going on, it’s not just people going to the polls. It’s the media coverage that happens before that, it’s the discourse that happens at work,” Gilman said. “You move that to a presidential election cycle, and it’s just going to be buried and lost in this sharply divided electoral politics that we have now.”
The commission also approved a recommendation for ranked choice voting, which allows residents to select their first, second and third choices for elected officials. If a resident’s first choice is eliminated from the race, their vote shifts to their second choice. The process continues until a single candidate garners a majority of votes.
Commissioner Frank Maitski, formerly a deputy operating officer with Valley Water, said he had mixed feelings about the proposal, but voted for it to allow more time to understand the pros and cons.
“I think it’s worth a little more discussion and see where we go,” Maitski said. “Is this really needed? I understand, theoretically, the benefits… if this were implemented 10 years ago, would we have a different City Council today?”
Commissioner and San Jose State University professor Garrick Percival said ranked choice voting would take place during the general election and give people more time to know a wider array of candidates.
“By moving to ranked choice, you actually have a longer campaign for more people,” Percival said. “At least this way, you would have a longer stretch for some of these lesser-known candidates.”
A proposal to add two to four new City Council districts was moved to the commission’s subcommittee on governance structure. The proposal will be heard at the commission’s next meeting on Aug. 23.
The Charter Review Commission will vote on its final recommendations to the City Council in October. Voters will ultimately decide any changes to the city charter. Readers can learn more about the commission at the city’s website.
Editor’s Note: Rick Callender serves on San José Spotlight’s board of directors.
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