Little Voting in Local Elections–A Lesson for the City of Coral Gables

This is a lesson for the City of Coral Gables.

The City of South Miami recently voted to move the date of elections to November coincident with national and state elections.

Many local elections are held on dates other than national elections. Sometimes it’s a different day; sometimes it’s an off-year, in between midterms and presidential votes. It’s hard enough getting people to vote for president and Congress; it’s even harder to get them out again to vote for county and city officials.

Fortunately, there’s an equally simple solution, and it comes at little cost: Move the dates of local elections to coincide with statewide and national contests. The logic is clear. When local elections are not held on the first Tuesday of November with other statewide and national contests, local voters need to learn the date of their local election, find their local election polling place and make a specific trip to the polls just to vote on local contests….

That small change in timing makes a huge difference in turnout. In 2016, Baltimore moved to on-cycle elections and its participation soared. Registered voter turnout went from just 13 percent in the last election before the switch to 60 percent in the first on-cycle election.

San Diego has on-cycle city elections and generally high turnout — 76 percent in November 2016. But when scandal forced the city to hold an off-cycle mayoral contest in 2013, turnout dropped to 35 percent.

Research shows that participation in local elections in cities doubles in on-cycle elections. And when turnout doubles, the skew in turnout declines, local government becomes more representative of its residents and policies become more responsive to the broader public.

Opinion | Why Does No One Vote in Local Elections? – The New York Times

About Stephen E. McGaughey
Resident of the City of Coral Gables

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